Discipline

path(Fumes, Form, and Fashion, Part 2)

Something in the woods near his grandfather’s farm seems to call to Adam. Ever since he was a little boy and his dad took him hiking or hunting there, this is the place where Adam, now a father himself, returns.  It doesn’t happen nearly as often or nearly enough these days. After all, Adam has responsibilities and stresses, and there never seems to be enough time.

For Phillip, it means a return to old disciplines that kept him in good shape throughout his 20s.  Now pushing 40, the problem for Phillip isn’t knowing what to do. It’s finding the will to actually do it.

Jacob follows the trail of his biblical namesake.  Just as the Lord called the patriarch back to Bethel – a place where he had previously encountered the Lord – so also Jacob is sensing a stirring to return to a place of spiritual life and growth he has known in the past.

Each of these are examples of a powerful and important tool of renewal and restoration, regardless of who you are.  But this is particularly true of men.  It’s why you often hear football coaches talk about “going back to the fundamentals.”  The biblical language mentions things like “remembering the former days.”  Check this out: [click to continue…]

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Broken Bread

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…]

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delete-ruthlessly

I’m not a hoarder. Really. But I do accumulate. A lot. And that applies to just about every zone of my world.

Quick check:

  • There are currently 15,993 email messages in my inbox. But that’s OK – only 7,108 of them are unread.
  • When my next-door neighbor moved out a couple of months ago, she had a whole bunch of pretty good stuff she was literally giving away – said take anything I wanted. So I did. Now it’s all in my garage, and one day I’ll get around to figuring out what all I got.
  • Right now I’m wearing a t-shirt I got in 2003. It’s still hole-less and relatively stainless, so it stays in the rotation, which now occupies two big drawers because one wouldn’t hold them.
  • Oh, and books. Way back in the day I kept up with exactly how many I had. Suffice it to say, I lost count. Now, counting ebooks, I have three libraries in three locations. And one of my New Year’s resolutions, if I had any (which I don’t) is to actually try to read some of them.
  • I have a to-do list that’s as long as your arm, but if you asked me to do something, I would most likely say yes if it were in my capacity to do it.

I could go on, but I fear that some of you who are really organized or efficient are starting to get hives, and I don’t want to cause you to stumble.

The point to all this is that I have a huge “front door” when it comes to gathering up things to do, be, and have and a naturally disorganized, balls-in-the-air approach to managing all of it.

Until I have to. Last week I had to. [click to continue…]

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Shut-Down“Today I spent Christmas completely alone…”
(from my journal, December 25, 1995)

Quick quiz: What do Bluebell Ice Cream, Tylenol, Rolaids, SMU Football, and ancient Judah (Israel) all have in common?

Answer: They all experienced a drastic, though temporary shutdown.

Shutdown. The word was hardly used prior to 1950. Now it’s a common part of our lexicon. It’s typically used of the government when Congress can’t seem to get together on a budget or debt ceiling limit (which in government terms is about the same as “budget”). A government shutdown, of course, is commonly believed to be a horrible thing.

Other than that, you often hear the term used to describe some sort of drastic action taken by a company. The whole state of Texas declared a state of emergency on April 4 when Blue Bell started closing its creameries – all of them – because of an incident of listeria contamination.

(If you aren’t from Texas or have never observed that state’s love affair with Blue Bell, picture shutting down football in Tuscaloosa, guns in Wyoming, or lobster rolls in Maine.)

I’ve been thinking about shutdowns lately for a couple of reasons, not the least of which was the heartburn I felt last night and the Rolaids I was gratefully chewing on (sorry Tums, you’ll have to go back to being Plan B). I have also been remembering a personal shutdown period I went through myself exactly 20 years ago. I don’t talk about it much anymore, but it still shapes a large part of who I am today. [click to continue…]

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SAMSUNG

There’s no arguing that you’re busy.  No question that whatever you do or don’t get done today, plenty will be waiting for you tomorrow.  Yet somehow you can’t help but feel a little like Rip Van Winkle.  At least a part of your life has been asleep at the wheel, and you’re wondering how you got left behind.

Maybe it was your finances.  Maybe your relationships.  Maybe it was your professional life, or your grasp on what’s cool in the culture.  Regardless, you can’t help but feel alone, isolated from the pulse and vibrant sensations of a life of awareness and relevance.

You’re busy, but suddenly awakened to the fact that you’re living in obscurity.

 +++++++

You have the restless sense that something is broken, and you’re called to fix it.  Something’s missing in the church and/or the world.  The church and its message seem choked of life and the world and its values are increasingly hostile.  And there you stand, somewhere in the middle.  You have a sense of calling; a fire of truth burns in your belly and you’ll die if you don’t get it out there.

And yet, despite the confidence you have in your place in God’s plans, nobody’s giving you a chance to actually live it.  Nobody’s interested in what you have to say; nobody’s taking what you’re offering.  You’re reaching out in love to anybody who will listen, and they’re responding like birds to a scarecrow.

So there you stand, heart and arms outstretched in desperate obscurity.

+++++++ [click to continue…]

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pha112000020I’m a big believer in cross training – especially since no less than Solomon said that “a wise man will hear and increase in learning.”  Under the banner of “all truth is God’s truth,” I make my living helping people find truth and wisdom in places where they may not otherwise look. That starts with scripture, of course. But even scripture sometimes points us to learning from other sources.  Check this out:

Go to the ant, O sluggard, Observe her ways and be wise… (Proverbs 6:6).

So in the spirit of being teachable, I have previously suggested that there are things you can learn from an orange salesman,  a party crasher, a baseball franchise, a ghost house, and a fired CEO.

Today’s teacher is a little less dramatic and a lot more in line with Solomon’s insect example.  [click to continue…]

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LeapingSitting on the back porch this morning, watching Thomas G. Glavine. Not the famous pitcher for the Braves and some other nameless team, but the yellow-striped cat named in his honor.  The G. doesn’t really stand for anything – that’s just something we tossed in there for good measure.

Glavine is a world-class mouser and extraordinary bird hunter.  He’s almost 11 years old and may have lost a step or two, but don’t tell the birds that.  A dove was sitting on top of the 10-foot fence this morning, and Glavine went to work.  His tail started swirling back and forth.  He waited and watched for the perfect moment.  Then he made an epic, heroic leap off the patio table and landed eye-to-eye with the bird, tail still swirling.

Well, the dove flew off and lived to see another day, and the cat went on the prowl for other prospects.  And the Lord and I had a little talk about what I had just witnessed.

See, before his feet made the leap to the top of the fence, his heart was leaping at the sight of the bird.  [click to continue…]

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AvoidanceImagine you are going into an office that has two points of entry.  Either door leads into the same large area.  It’s during office hours, so you know both doors are unlocked.  The first door you come to is closed.  The second, a little further down the hall, is open.  Which door do you go in?

I actually had that conversation with someone who challenged me.  We were going down the hallway and I passed the first door – the closed one, and walked in through the open door.

“Why did you do that?” Krista asked.

“Do what?”

“You walked past a perfectly good door to go through the second.”

“Because the second one was open,” I said, a little baffled that someone would actually question that.

“But the first one was closer,” Krista said.  Krista was a high school senior, our next door neighbor, and wonderful babysitter.  She was also literally a genius.  We had lots of deep conversations like this back in the day.

Then I blurted out this little gem of wisdom that revealed a lot more than I planned: [click to continue…]

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Lean 2

A few years ago Mike Ashcraft came up with a revolutionary idea.  In considering what we all intuitively know – that New Year’s resolutions are inherently powerless to produce real life change – Mike proposed capturing the essence of the person we want to become, or what we most want God to do for us in one simple word.

“My One Word,” he called it.

The idea caught fire, and his web site, myoneword.org, became a gathering place for people all over the world to share their core essential idea for that particular year.

I arrived late to that party when a LifeVesting reader pointed me to the site a couple of years ago.  I was captivated by the idea, and landed on the word, Finish! as my word for that year.

I revisited the idea when I wrote this post about things to do before the end of the year.  I learned in the process that Mike, along with Rachel Olsen, has since written a book that is now available to guide you through the process.

In prayerfully considering what my one word could and should be for this year, I began searching for the themes the Lord seems to have been playing out in my life recently – what I call the Descants of the Soul.  Those themes have a way of ebbing and flowing.  And it didn’t take me long at all to land on what my one word should be… [click to continue…]

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You can’t.

You can walk it out.  You can stand there and look humble while people tell you that you’ve got it.  You can make corrections when you stand convicted of the need for some changes.  You can use it to plead with God or The Man (whoever that is) for justice or a raise or something.  You can even dare to mention it when you run for political office.

But you are not equipped to be the architect or builder of an integrated life – yours or anybody else’s.

This is no self-improvement process, friends.  You can’t build integrity into your life by getting more information, imitating somebody else, or rigidly keeping a code of conduct. You can’t get it with an extreme makeover, a friendly takeover, or a cosmetic rake-over.

Integrity is an inside job.  It’s the result of a transformational process that takes your dis-integrated self and changes you through and through by a power that is not your own.

That said, just as an office building is designed and constructed according to a set pattern, so your Master Designer and Builder follows a blueprint for building wholeness in you.  And while you don’t have the power to do this yourself, your faith and submission to His work can help speed the process.

Each of these stages builds on the other, and I believe the order matters.  And yet, these are all lifetime pursuits that we’ll never perfectly achieve this side of heaven.  Designing and building a life of integrity involves: [click to continue…]

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