Isolation

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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Quicksand

Ever have a conversation like this?

Whatever happened to ________? I really thought he was going places.

Not sure.  Ever since [insert a distracting or demoralizing event] he never was quite the same.

I’ve witnessed countless scenarios like that one. I even lived out a few of them.

The idea of leadership is that you’re influencing people, formally or informally, to move together toward a certain goal.  If it were easy, anybody could do it.  But because you’re dealing with people, and because leadership often involves matters of the heart, it’s easy to find yourself sucked into leadership quicksand.

At best, it’s a distraction and you lose focus.

At worst, it can paralyze and ultimately destroy your influence.

Here are 10 sloughs to avoid (or get out of today) to allow your leadership to see another day: [click to continue…]

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leadership failure

Nobody who takes on a leadership role sets out to blow it.  I’ve never heard of a CEO who dreamed of halving his market share, a pastor who fantasized about getting the right foot of fellowship, or a government leader who longs to go from hero to zero.

But leadership failure happens.  Often. And while it can happen quickly at times, usually there are warning signs.  Unfortunately, most of the time we wait for hindsight to convince us of what foresight and insight have probably been hollering all along.

If you’re a leader, or have the ear of one, you may want to pay attention to these seven warning signals before it’s too late. [click to continue…]

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Man  and his dog reading newspaperIt was one of the early flashes of her wicked-strong sense of humor.  I was taking the twins to school during their sixth grade year.  We passed by the big-chain hotel on South Loop 289 when all of a sudden I heard Carrie bust out laughing from the back.

What was so funny?

The welcome sign at the hotel read, “Welcome Pest Control.”  Obviously it was some kind of meeting of some organization in that industry.  But I’m not sure that’s what you want to trumpet to the rest of the potential guests.

“I’ve heard of roach motels before,” she said, “but they must be desperate.”

+++++++

Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago.  [click to continue…]

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It was a new day at Grace Church.  A new pastor was coming, and this would be his first weekend.  People were excited, and they needed to be.  Grace had gone through an ugly split that had left a lot of angry, hurt, and confused people in its wake.  A pretty solid plug of people had started Faith Church down the road and had contacted the outgoing pastor from Grace to help them get started.  Some people had left for other churches.  Some people had quit attending anywhere.

One of the walking wounded was a former associate pastor – Chris Naylor.  Chris had received “the right foot of fellowship” from the previous administration.  Though he had found other opportunities for Kingdom service, Chris was still a member – at least on paper – at Grace.

That’s why I was a little surprised when I asked Chris and his wife Rachael if they were going to hear the new guy that weekend, and both immediately, categorically said, “No.”

Ooh.  Sorry I asked.

“My friends think I’m bitter,” Chris added.

“Are you?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” he replied honesty.  “How do you balance the fact that on the one hand I love the church and wish nothing but the best for them, but on the other hand, have absolutely no respect for their system of leadership or the choices they have made?”

“I don’t know.”

Chris was just getting warmed up as Rachael was tearing up. [click to continue…]

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I can take you to the spot.

I can point to where I was standing.

The old, worn gold carpet is long gone, I’m sure.  The house on Watson Road has likely been redecorated many times since we lived there.

But there’s no mistaking that spot where I made one of the most life-altering decisions of my life.  And get this:  I never told a soul about it.  In fact, I never uttered a word.  But in a silent transaction of the mind, will, and emotions, with three simple words I began a process of sowing to the wind… and reaping a whirlwind.

The words?

I.

Give.

Up. [click to continue…]

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Storming the Gates of Loneliness

by Andy Wood on October 11, 2010

in Esteem, Life Currency, Love

“Loneliness does not come from having no people about one, but from being unable to communicate the things that seem important to oneself, or from holding certain views which others find inadmissible.” (Carl Jung) 

In an eastern hospital years ago, a group of medical students were doing a pediatric rotation.   As they worked with these hospitalized kids each day, they noticed that the patients responded with great joy to one particular med student.  Nobody could figure out why.  So they talked one of their cohort members into doing a little spying. 

The observer followed him around all day and discovered nothing.  Finally that night, the mystery was solved when the young doctor made his last round. [click to continue…]

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runner-painI went to the Fred Flintstone School of Golf.  Simple philosophy:  when in doubt, hit the ball really hard.  When not in doubt, hit the ball really hard.

Maybe you’ve heard that old saying about golf – “You drive for show, and putt for dough.”  Suffice it to say, I’ve never made any money hitting a ball in a hole with a stick.  I have, however, put on a show or two by hitting a ball off a stick.

All of that is fine and fun, so long as you’re dealing with woods and wedges.  Life, however, is a different story.  A mere proverb in the Gentleman’s Game is brutal reality in the real world:

It’s not how you drive, but how you arrive.

Not how you start, but how you finish.  Magilla Gorilla and Fred Flintstone need not apply.

Life is filled with real and proverbial stories of people who started well, but finished poorly.  Rather than leaving a heritage, with inspiring and ennobling footsteps to follow, their names and stories are relegated to footnotes and questions that begin with, “Whatever happened to…”?

It’s up to you.  Will you be a driver, or an arriver?  I must warn you, if you decide to go the distance, the deck is stacked against you.  This is a marathon, not a dash, and you’re surrounded by gloriously mediocre runners and a grandstand full of fat critics.  But you do have a Coach – the Lord Jesus, Author and Finisher of your faith. Under His direction, you’ll learn to identify these six fool makers and finish breakers: [click to continue…]

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yelling-2Interested in getting a head start on your firewood for next winter?  I once heard of a unique way to drop a tree.  It seems some villagers in the Solomon Islands in the South Pacific have learned how to conquer the really big ones.  If a tree is too large to be felled with an ax, the natives cut it down by yelling at it.  (I’m not making this up.  I read it in a book, so it must be true.)  Just at dawn these woodsmen with special powers sneak up on a tree and suddenly scream at it at the top of their lungs.  They do this every day for 30 days, and the tree dies and falls over.  The theory is that yelling kills the spirit of the tree.  According to the villagers, it always works.

Felling by yelling.  Sounds crazy, doesn’t it?  Crazy enough to be true.

I’ll have to admit, though, I’ve never seen it happen.  I’ve never yelled at a tree (and I wouldn’t tell you if I had).  Not for thirty days.  Not for one day.  Furthermore, I’ve never seen anyone else yell at a tree.  So I can’t say by experience that hollering works on trees.

But it does work on kids.  I have seen that happen.

Works on spouses, too.

Some people yell at their cars or their washing machine, and it doesn’t seem to do much good.  But I’ve seen it drop a few pastors.  And I’ve seen it kill the spirit of a friend or two as well. [click to continue…]

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Bringing Hope to the Land of Nod (Part 3)

1.  Reconnect the spiritual with the interpersonal.
2. Expose anger for what it is, and provide a model for forgiveness.
3.  Respond to Victimhood by Redefining Responsibility

4.  Reopen doors of trust and acceptance.

group-prayerEvery vibrant relationship is a dance with trust.  As the relationship deepens, so does the trust.  As the trust grows, the relationship deepens even more.

That said, it’s easy to see why the citizens of Nod have an itty bitty trust issue.  “Fool me once,” and all that.

Do people trust you?  The challenge we face in being instruments of healing is that trust, once broken, is incredibly difficult to restore.  Yet without it, hearts remain crippled and closed off.

Our goal for the citizens of Nod is to lead them to do more than survive.  We believe God wants them to thrive. [click to continue…]

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