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Forgiveness

Leadership Light

In the last post I shared six signs of a leader who breathes life into organizations and followers, as opposed to those who have a way of sucking the life out of them.  Definitely worth a review if you missed it.  My guess is, you have probably experienced both types on a personal level, whether it’s in your workplace, your church, or your community.  We’ve certainly seen both types on a global or national scale as well.

What I’m more concerned about, however, is the leadership you show, even if you don’t think of yourself as a leader.  Everybody influences somebody, and you’re no exception.  And all of us can learn from the example of the ultimate life-giving leader, the Lord Jesus.  Here are six more signs of a life-giving leader. [click to continue…]

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(Get Out of the Boat, Part 3)

Empty Boat

(Note: Today is a very special day for me. It was 40 years ago today that the Lord made it clear to a young high school sophomore’s heart that He had a call and gifts for vocational service for me. All I had asked for is clarity, and on this night He did that in no uncertain terms.  There are many things I wish I could have done differently in the last 40 years.  But if I had one thing I could say – one lesson learned that surpasses all others during this time – what follows is a pretty good expression of it.  Hope you enjoy…)

How long are you going to wear that?

How long are you going to treat that uniform as if it’s a tattoo?

How long are you going to assume that past results are a guarantee of future disappointment?

How long are you going to treat failure as if it is a person – namely you – and not an event?

How long will you believe that people who love Jesus never blow it?  And people who blow it could never love Jesus again?

How long – how long – will you assume that forgiveness couldn’t possibly mean restoration?

Maybe you’re the one who needs to get out of the boat. [click to continue…]

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wpt043Way back in the day, Chuck Bolte and the Jeremiah People did a hilarious skit called “The Service” about five people sitting on a church pew waiting for the service to start.  There was an older couple, a younger couple who had it all together and knew it, and a young wife who in tears admits that her husband has left her and moved into a hotel.

Out come the clichés.  In one place, Chuck who played the younger man, said something like, “You see, Julie, as Christians we’re on God’s winning team.  We make our baskets, we sink our putts, we cross the goal line!”  Then he asks that penetrating question:  “Julie, have you made Christ the center of your marriage.”

“Look,” she says.  “I don’t know how to make Christ the center of our marriage.  I come here for help and all I get are words… words I’ve said to myself a thousand times.”

Ouch.  But hey, at least she got some words.  Sometimes church people don’t even do that.

In 35 years of some sort of ministry, I’ve been blessed to receive a lot of gritty grace.  Sure, some people got it wrong.  But I’ve seen enough people get it right to dismiss my own “inner Pharisee” and pay it forward.  They taught me how to run to the spiritually wounded, not away from them.  Here are a few lessons I’ve learned along the way. [click to continue…]

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Church keep outA few years ago I was having coffee with an old friend and colleague.  I was in a pretty wounded state at the time, and felt compelled to tell him my story.  He was compassionate, listened attentively, then asked, “How can I help?”

“I was thinking about visiting your church,” I said, “and just wanted you to know.”

“Well, I’ll be honest with you,” he replied. “We’re not much of a healing place.”

Wow.  There it was.  Translation:  We’re more interested in fresh blood than spilled blood.  But to be fair, his church was and is true to its mission as they perceive it.  And at least he was kind enough to be honest.

For years I have heard the old saying, “The Christian army is the only army in the world that shoots its wounded.”  Let me say right up front, that’s not accurate.  If you really believe that, you’ve never been in a corporate “army” or a political one.  The wounded get eliminated there all the time.

But the church is supposed to be different, right?  We’re supposed to be trophies of grace, havens of love, lighthouses of hope and (make your own cliché here:  [blank] of [blank]).  So what’s up with that right foot of fellowship? [click to continue…]

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A cathedral in Europe was famous for the large, magnificent, stained‑glass window that was located behind the altar and high above the sanctuary.  One day a violent windstorm shattered that beautiful window into a thousand pieces.  The church custodian was hesitant to discard the fragments, so he put them in a box and stored them in the basement of the cathedral.

Shortly after the storm, a man who had heard about the damage asked for and received the broken pieces of glass.  About 2 years later, he invited the caretaker to visit him in a nearby village.  When the custodian arrived, the man explained that he was an artisan and that he had something to show him.  When the craftsman unveiled his work, the visitor was astonished to see a lovely window fashioned from the broken fragments.  It was even more beautiful than the original.

You can be, too.

Like the shattered window, sometimes we live in the wake of a painful experience that threatens to leave us broken and scarred – an unrecognizable leftover of what we once imagined ourselves to be.

Abundance?  Hardly.

Joyful?  Are you kidding?

I heard a beautiful reflection on that a couple of years ago from a TV show, of all things: [click to continue…]

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I keep a list of Darling Words – words that have a lot of charm or inspire the imagination.  “Forever” is one of those words.  It speaks of life.  Grace.  Commitment.  And a long, long time.

Used poetically, Forever speaks of a depth of love that’s supposed to exceed the way we feel about watermelon or melted cheese on tater tots.  It’s supposed to last longer than the latest distraction or the next annoying thing somebody does.

Forever is sometimes used to take a snapshot of a moment or a feeling.  It’s the language of a hopeless romantic or magical thinker, inviting someone to a lifetime of adventure.

But more than that, Forever speaks the language of letting go of the past and starting something new.  It speaks of a lifetime pursuit worth waiting for or something more powerful than death and the grave.

We come by our attraction to Forever honestly.  The Bible says that God has placed eternity in our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11).  In spite of the vanity of our fallen condition, we are instinctively drawn to love for the long haul and life beyond this lifetime.  Why, then, is “Forever” such a fleeting thing?  Why don’t connections or commitments last beyond the latest inconvenience or frustration? [click to continue…]

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I spend a lot of time trying to think up new things, or new ways to say the familiar things.  I’m a big believer in singing a new song to the Lord and the exquisite beauty that comes from being completely random every once in a while.

That said, our brains were build to learn by repetition, and our hearts were made to be renewed by reminders.  That’s why the Bible has four gospels, Kings and Chronicles, and the books of Deuteronomy and 1 John. All built on some form of repetition.  That’s why the early church met daily from house to house or had a regular assembly on the first day of the week.  To be reminded.  To be renewed.

I know I accidentally repeat myself plenty of times, but today I thought it may be time for a little deliberate renewal – some purpose-driven (sorry, Rick) reminders of the big stuff – a harvested collection of some of the good stuff.  Not my stuff, but those themes that keep us going and keep going themselves long after we’re gone.  So here goes… [click to continue…]

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Oh happiness, there’s grace,
Enough for us and the whole human race
-David Crowder

Sometimes we just make it more complicated than it should be… than it has to be.  Can you relate?

We’ve long ago learned that money and things don’t buy it, though that doesn’t seem to stop us from trying.

Technology promises to serve it up, but that server keeps crashing… hard.  Of course, that won’t stop us from lining up for the next iThingy when it comes out (complete with a three-year service plan and a monthly charge).

Love?  Can’t love do it?  Sure, depending on whose definition you’re talking about.  Honestly, most people’s definition of love would complicate a two-car funeral or reduce the rest of the world to service providers.  And can you really be happy when the people around you are so miserable trying to keep you satisfied?

Yeah, I know.  It’s complicated.

We’re like the parents of that preschooler who just spent hundreds on that latest gotta-have-it toy with its techno-wizardry, who are mystified that the kid just wants to play with the box.  And he’s having a blast with the box, while the exasperated parents keep shoving this strange, noisy thing in his face trying to get him to be happy.

Most of us, though, have trained ourselves to look past the simple source of creative imagination (the box) and demand that the latest products or people provide us the happiness we demand.  And we never quite arrive at what’s advertised… at least not for very long.

Maybe we’re looking in the wrong place.  Maybe it’s time to go back to the box.  Maybe it’s time to unplug – to go from “batteries not included” to “no purchase necessary.”

Maybe it’s time to rediscover the beauty of Simple Happiness.  And you’ll find it: [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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I know I’m not supposed to worry.

But…

I know I should have more faith in God.

But…

I know this should be an easy, clear decision.

But…

I want to pursue this direction.

But…

I long ago lost count of the number of times a counseling or coaching encounter started there.  Here’s what I know.  Here’s what I should be.  Here’s what I want.

But…

These are the starting points of conversations about something we all encounter – core conflicts. [click to continue…]

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