Discipline

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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Robin and Gift

It was a fairly eclectic group gathered around the dining room table Saturday night.  A combination of old friends and acquaintances, family, and a special friend who had literally traveled around the world to be here.

All eyes were on our Thai friend Gift, who had come from Bangkok with her son Dift to stay with us for four weeks.  She was sharing with those who came to her “welcoming party” about the dream she had to establish an export business.

The goal:  to support her husband Dui’s ministry among the three distinct congregations, Bible study groups and the additional pastor training ministry he has established.  Also to give Thai women an opportunity to earn a living in keeping with their considerable work ethic and skill.

Gift designs exquisite jewelry and has a growing team of Thai women who are able to make her designs by hand using certified-authentic gemstones from China and other places.

After sharing her brief story and dream, Gift’s focus changed to address my father-in-law, who was seated at the table with us. He had left Thailand with his family when Dui was just two years old and Gift was one.  Though he hasn’t lived there since 1974, because of his frequent returns and ongoing relationships, he remains a hero there to this day.  And that was the word – hero – that Gift used to describe how she and her husband saw Dr. Willis.

“We pray that we can have the same…” Gift was saying, and she paused, looking to no avail for the right English word.  Finally, all she could do is say it in Thai.

“How do you say, gam-lang jai?” [click to continue…]

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Jason meant well.  But his efforts to help the butterfly-to-be only ended in disaster.  For days he had watched the cocoon and wondered what it would produce.  Finally he noticed a tiny opening in the cocoon’s wall.  On the other side, the new life form was struggling furiously – desperately – to be free of its self-designed prison.  Feeling compassion for the little creature, the boy found a sharp knife and carefully cut the cocoon’s wall in order to relieve it from its struggle.

The butterfly soon died.  Its wings were grossly deformed, and it was unable to fly.  What appeared to be a struggle was actually the process by which the animal’s wings are formed.  Jason had short-circuited the process, and the results, though unintentional, were tragic.

You and I are very much like the butterfly.  We are often wrapped up in our own kinds of cocoons – alone, stifled, limited, longing to be free.  Sometimes these are prisons of our own doing – addictions, bondage to sin, broken relationships, stupid decisions.   At other times our cocoons are thrust upon us in the form of disappointments, losses of loved ones, extended illnesses, or the abuse of others.  Either way, the results are the same.  Why do we feel so alone?  What in the world is God up to?  Where will we ever find relief?  When will we be “free to fly” again?  How will we make it through another day? [click to continue…]

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Grab a pen and a legal pad.  You’ve got some writing to do, and you get one chance to get this right.  Soon your number’s going to be called, and there’ll be no more letters, no more encouraging, no more leading…

…no more living.

Everything you have worked for on this side of eternity is hanging in the balance.  And the guy you’ve picked as your successor – your standard bearer?

He’s AWOL.

Some people, when they burn out, act out.  This guy burned out, and hid out.

And you have one chance to light a fire under him before somebody, well, lights a fire under you, so to speak.  What would you say?  How would you say it?  Is this a time for force or finesse?  Rah-rah or sob-sob? [click to continue…]

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Your most trusted employee visits your email inbox with a request for a meeting.  When you find the time to get together, he discloses to you that he has a substance abuse problem that requires in-house treatment.  Upon further review, you discover that his abuse took place on more than one occasion while on the job – a fireable offense.  This is his first sign of trouble.  What do you do?

Your teenage daughter is at a friend’s house for a sleepover; you know the friend and are at least familiar with the friend’s parents.  You’re awakened at 1:20 a.m. by your daughter asking you to bail her out of jail.  The charge:  drunk driving.  This is the second time you have caught her drinking, but the first time you have had any evidence of drinking and driving.  How do you respond?

Your youth pastor has been rumored or accused of inappropriate relationships with girls in his youth groups – one former, one current – which he vehemently denies.  He explains that he was just showing Christian concern for someone who had been abused or hurt in the past, and his kindness was misinterpreted.  Nevertheless, Scripture is clear that there shouldn’t even be a hint of immorality or impurity among God’s people, and particularly leaders.  The youth pastor is very popular among the students, but has his critics among your adults.  Keeping him could leave you liable to a lawsuit or public accusation; firing him could decimate your youth group.  What do you do? [click to continue…]

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If I were to tell you that I can show you a completely foolproof plan to make extraordinary gains in every dimension of your life, would you be interested in learning more?

Yes, money.  Still curious?

Relationships, too.  How ‘bout now?

Sure, it works for getting more out of your time, improving your professional life, and deepening your spiritual life.

This one secret, handed down through ancient wisdom, has always – always – marked the difference between winners and wannabes.

Oh, and what if I were to tell you that this guarantee is backed up by God Himself?  Meaning, of course, that it works for all time and eternity, too. 

I know, I know.  If it’s that obvious, and that old, everybody else will know it and be doing it, right?

Not exactly. [click to continue…]

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“I swear, I keep thinking, if somehow I press through, I can get where I want to go.  If, of course, it doesn’t kill me or I don’t kill myself in the process.”  (from my journal, July 18, 2005)

+++++++

“This is warfare,” Robin said.

“It’s God!” I snapped back, dispirited and resigned.  “Let’s just go home.”

Well, there you have it.  Now you know what we fight about at my house. 

It was the day from hell.  It started with a hard funeral – a suicide victim – at which I was to speak.  My message to the grieving family and friends was to “be still – cease striving – and know that he is God.”  It was on a Monday, following a very harried and stressful Sunday, in the middle of a very harried and stressful summer.  

But this was the Monday when the scenery was supposed to change.  With the help of my office staff, we had scheduled a trip to the mountains to write.

As in, the LifeVesting book.

Here’s a little proverbial advice, for what it’s worth:  Beware of trying to change your scenery on Monday.  [click to continue…]

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“It’s going to be fun to watch and see how long the meek can keep the earth once they inherit it”  -Kin Hubbard.

“The meek shall inherit the earth – if that’s okay with everybody” (Motto of the Dependent Organization of Really Meek and Timid Souls, or D.O.O.R.M.A.T).  -J. Upton Dickson

“He leads the humble in what is right, teaching them his way. The LORD leads with unfailing love and faithfulness all those who keep his covenant and obey his decrees.”  -Psalm 25:9-10, NLT

It’s quiet on this Monday morning, except for the sound of a rooster and a fiddle, an infant’s grunts from his swing, and a toddler’s delighted dancing as she watches – again – the Baby Einstein “Life on the Farm” video.  Watching the two of them – especially with scenes from an abundant earth passing by – reminds me from the last post how we were wired from creation and birth. 

We were created to inherit the earth.  It’s in our DNA.  But in the wisdom of God, He knew we would need help.  His help.  Without it, we have the capacity to do – well, what we’ve pretty much done with the planet.

That’s why Jesus – quoting Psalm 37 – said that the delighted happiness that comes from inheriting the earth is reserved for a specific kind of person.  Yep – the meek.

So He Reserves It for Sissies?

Not exactly.  [click to continue…]

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