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Blogger, Christ-follower, Encourager, Friend, Husband, Dad

Monday, June 25, 2012

The Show Must Go On

I am a Texan. I enjoy traveling and seeing other places, but there’s no better place to live.  It ain’t braggin’ if it’s the truth.
One of our state’s entertainment treasures takes place in one of our natural treasures.  The musical drama TEXAS is now in its 47th season of entertaining summertime audiences in Palo Duro Canyon.
Both Mrs. Sweetie and I spent a summer as TEXAS cast members during our college days. This summer our baby boy (all 6’5” of him) is spending his summer getting paid to sing, dance, and act.  He’s also on the stunt team and one night a week he gets set on fire. Now that will bless your heart as a parent!
Friends and family have been on intensive prayer duty ever since the first man-on-fire photos showed up on Facebook.  The boy says the greatest challenge is to remember not to breathe.  My brother says his biggest challenge would be to remember not to scream like a little girl!
Three days ago I got the dreaded phone call from my boy. He had been injured.  No, it was not during the fire scene.  He tripped over his own feet while dancing in the finale and fractured his ankle.  That gives a whole new meaning to the theatrical good luck wish of “break a leg. 
Of course I’m thinking that a dancing injury was a genetic inevitability. As the son of a Baptist preacher, why was he dancing anyway? They should have known they were putting him in danger.  Set him on fire, but for heaven’s sake, don’t let him dance!  We’re Baptists!  We have no rhythm!
The phone conversation from the doctor’s office took place about 3:00 p.m.  At 8:00 p.m. when the first act overture began, he was on stage.  On crutches.  He’s not doing any dancing or combusting for the next three weeks, but he will not miss a single one of the 18 performances that will happen during that three week period.  He made a commitment.  He signed a contract.  People are depending on him.  And he loves what he is doing.
The show must go on!
I got to thinking about how easy it is to make excuses.  There are times when I want to back out of something for no other reason than I am tired. I have to admit that there are things I know that God wants me to do, and I am often full of excuses. Sometimes I think, “What would it matter?  I’m not that important.”
My son had a director who told him, “We need you.  You are important.  No one can take your place.”  No pressure, just affirmation of his value to the show.
Our lives matter so much to God that He wants us to see our value to Him and His purpose in the world. So, don’t sit and watch. Get out there on His stage.
Just don’t trip over your own cowboy boots.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

It's Only an Hour

The speaker of the children’s sermon held some brightly colored leaves in his hand. With these props, he asked, “What season comes between Summer and Winter?”  Without hesitation, one of the boys answered, “Huntin’ season!”
It may not be Huntin’ season right now, but it certainly appears to be Weddin’ season.
When I transitioned from the pastorate to my current ministry, I thought I was pretty much out of the weddin’ business.  Of course I expected to perform my own daughter’s wedding (done in 2011) and perhaps my son’s (not yet).  Other than that, I didn’t plan on weddings being a part of my ministry. To be honest, that transition didn’t bother me too much.  If you can get most preachers to be honest about it, they will tell you that weddings are a pain.  That sentence was not meant to imply that it is hard to get preachers to be honest.  Don’t misquote me there!
As I post this, I am 13 days away from my 28th wedding anniversary with Mrs. Sweetie.  Being married is one of the most wonderful things in the world.  Getting married … well that’s something else.
Why am I writing about something that is no longer a part of my life?  Ah, the best laid plans. There are just some people that make it tough to say, “No.”  I have performed two wedding ceremonies in the past week.  I am currently doing premarital counseling with another couple.  These are people that are special enough to me to bring me out of “retirement”.
It’s still a pain.
My opinion is that our culture makes it a pain.  So much focus is given to the wedding and so little is given to the marriage.  I have threatened for years to write a book about weddings and wedding preparation.  The title pretty much sums it up: "It’s Only an Hour.”
One hour gets months of planning and thousands of dollars.  One hour turns parents into basket cases.  One hour causes more mother/daughter arguments than any other event.  One hour can take years to pay off.  And no matter how much attention it gets, it’s still one hour!
Why not concentrate on the next 60 years of marriage?  I am reminded of the words of Jesus in Matthew 7:24-25. "Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. Though the rain comes in torrents and the flood waters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won't collapse because it is built on bedrock”.
One public hour all dressed up is not a foundation.  Our lives matter so much to God, that He wants us to build on hundreds of thousands of private hours of love and faithfulness.
I’ve logged over 245,000 hours of marriage with Mrs. Sweetie.  The first one is a distant memory. I’m more concerned with the next one. 
That’s my wish for all newly/nearly-weds.

Friday, June 15, 2012

What's Your Thing?

Do you remember Thing One and Thing Two from The Cat in the Hat?  Those Things caused all kinds of mayhem for a couple of bored kids on a cold, wet day in Dr. Seuss’s classic kids book (written almost 70 years ago, by the way).
Well, I know a little something about Things getting in the way.  Do you ever feel like you are juggling so many Things in your life that Things get in the way of other Things?  Maybe it’s only me. I’m sure that, at your house, everything is in its place, the calendar is organized with military precision, everyone feels completely appreciated and acknowledged, and if Stephen Covey were to write a new book on the habits of highly effective households, he would only need to come and observe yours for a few days.
No?  Then welcome to the real world.
In the real world, Things compete for our attention and resources.  I’m not just talking about tangible items that you can touch and see.  I’m talking about activities, many of them good and beneficial.  I’m talking about priorities.  Some of those Things are really important.  I’m talking about living.
So, how do we get our Things in order so that they are enhancing our lives rather than complicating them?  No, I’m not talking about efficiency.  Efficiency is over-rated.  I guess I really am talking about effectiveness in the sense of making a difference in the world.
I heard a sermon recently based on one phrase of Philippians 3:13: “But one thing I do”.  The preacher quoted the great evangelist D.L. Moody, who said, “Give me one man who says, ‘This one thing I do,’ rather than twelve men who say these twelve things I dabble in.’”  He quoted the great motivational speaker Zig Ziglar who said, “All great people have one distinguishing mark, they’re people of single-minded focus.”
I came away asking the question, “How can I possible focus on one Thing?”  I work to assist 61 different churches in 3 counties.  I write blogs and newspaper columns.  I coach ministry leaders.  I network with ministry partners all over the country.  And I am a husband and father.  How in the world can I say, “This is my one Thing?”
Can you relate?
Since pondering life is one of the many Things I do, I spent some time on it.  And the proverbial “Aha” came.  My one Thing is to be a blessing to as many people as possible, empowering them on the journey of fulfilling God’s unique plan for each of their lives.  That’s my main Thing.  That’s the Thing that puts all the other Things in place. 
Our lives matter so much to God, that He cares about all the Things that make up our lives.  He has a main Thing for each of us that is a deeply personalized as our DNA.  I have discovered mine.
What’s your Thing?

Who Stole My Pomp?

Can you begin to estimate how many times “Pomp and Circumstance” has been played recently? Around mid-May, the college graduations began.  High School graduations have dominated the past couple of weekends.  I remember the great wisdom my favorite son offered us after his High School graduation.  After having attended the three previous years as a member of the band, he said the best thing about graduating was not having to play “P & C” a hundred times (especially the boring series of quarter notes that made up the trombone part).
Anyone who has read my column for more than a week or two knows that, for the most part, I observe life, chuckle and/or groan, and then columnize about it. (I think I just made up a word.  I do that a lot, too).
I don’t attend many graduations anymore.  Having attended three of my own, those of my siblings and my offspring, and a few nieces and nephews, I am pretty selective on how much P&C my backside can endure.  But when I do, it is the response of the graduates’ families, not the graduates themselves, that gets my Spidey senses tingling.  Banners, cheers, whistles, air horns, tears … I wonder how many prayers were offered that this child would not drop out before graduation.  I wonder which one is the first in his family to graduate.  I wonder which one is the baby of her family and the nest is about to be empty.
I wonder if they give much thought to what they are graduating TO.
Speeches about the future abound, but in reality, those days celebrate what they are graduating FROM.  So, you are graduating  FROM High School … what are you graduating TO?  College … what then?  Grad school … then what? 
As trite and cliché as it sounds, the old saying is true, “Today is the first day of the rest of your life.”  And I will let you in on a little secret.  For most of us, there’s not a lot of pomp in our real world circumstances.  As one of my nieces, a recent college graduate, often laments, big girl world is not a lot of fun.
What you graduate TO is life.  The training wheels are off.  Landlords expect to get paid.  Employers expect effectiveness and efficiency. Sometimes you have to take the job you can get until you can get the job you want.  At some point, you may be tempted to ask, “Who stole my pomp?
Life is not about pomp.  It is about purpose.  Our lives matter so much to God that Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”  That’s it.  Not a life of pomp, but a life of purpose.  You really can go out and change the world if you decide to make a difference in one life at a time.
Pomp?  You can have it.  The trombone line is boring anyway.

BAD-itude or GLAD-itude ... Our Choice

I confess to being an amused/amazed observer of social trends. It is both amusing and amazing to note that, as a wise man once said, “There is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1:9)  Anybody remember mini-skirts, hip-huggers, and bell bottoms from the first time around?  Seen any lately?
There was a time when the walls in our homes were decorated with little plaques with inspirational or humorous sayings.  Maybe some of them still are.  But that decorating trend has evolved into the digital age where the “inspirational” signs now adorn our Facebook walls and Pinterest boards. I put the word “inspirational” in quotation marks because I sometimes wonder what they are intended to inspire.
For example, I saw this on Facebook this morning: “Don’t get confused between my personality and my attitude.  My personality is who I am, my attitude depends on who you are.”  I wonder how many people liked it and shared it so that it now adorns their own wall.
Full disclosure requires me to admit that I have often taken this approach and let the actions of others determine my attitude.  It is easy to let others “make” us mad or frustrated.  It is easy to let the high-maintenance joy suckers in life “make” us want to throw them out a window.  We have also been the beneficiaries of those serendipitous moments when someone else’s encouraging or gracious personality has “made” our day.
So what’s the problem with the “inspirational” saying? Once again, there is nothing new under the sun.  It illustrates a problem that goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden.  Adam: “The woman … gave me some fruit from the tree and I ate it.”  Eve: “The serpent deceived me and I ate.” (Genesis 3:12-13).  The problem is that we don’t want to take responsibility for ourselves. 
Follow this line of logic:  If the actions and attitudes of other people determine our attitudes (he “made” me so mad), and if our attitudes lead us to behave in a certain way (I snapped at the cashier at the store), and if our attitudes and actions affect those around us (the cashier responded rudely to the next person in line), we have all become a part of a vicious circle of “Bad-itudeness” for which none of us is truly responsible.  After all, the person who “made” me mad was previously affected by someone else.
Is that really the way we want to live?  How about this: I cannot choose my circumstances, but I can choose my response.  My attitude does not depend on who you are, it depends on who I choose to be.  If I walk away from you mad, you did not “make” me that way, I chose it.  I can also choose NOT to be that way.
Our lives matter so much to God that He gave us the ability to choose.  When I consider my life, I choose GLAD-itude.  How about you?