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

Monday, April 29, 2013

I've Got Women on My Mind

I spend a lot of time thinking about women these days.  By “these days”, I mean this time of year.  And I don’t mean just women in general, but specific ones.  During the months of April and May, I celebrate birthdays of my mom, step-mom, mother-in-law, favorite daughter, Mrs. Sweetie (who just had one of those significant numbered birthdays), one sister-in-law, and two nieces.  Throw in Mother’s Day and that’s a high concentration of estrogen that affects my life this time of year. 

This past weekend, we went to see our son in a production of “Legally Blonde, The Musical”.  Talk about estrogen overload!  But, I digress.  After the sold-out performance, we gathered in the crowded lobby of the theater to greet the cast members. As we stood visiting, congratulating, and repeating funny lines from the show, my son’s future mother-in-law lined the kids up for a photo.  She couldn’t get the photo taken because her future son-in-law kept harassing her by looking away just before she pushed the button.  I think he was actually pushing her button, but I digress again.

I had a flashback watching this hilarious exchange. I fear he comes by it honestly.  I messed with my mother-in-law’s photo taking for 25 years.  Mamaw was always armed with one of those little one-use disposable cameras.  I couldn’t convince her to go digital.  It was actually a bittersweet moment to watch this new generation of harassment on what would have been her 84th birthday.  She went on to heaven four years ago and I miss her.  I can only hope that my son has as much fun with his mother-in-law as I had with mine and for at least as many years.

We all have the family into which we were born.  Some of us have a family we got because of someone’s choice.  But however we got them, we get to choose how we interact with them.  I’ve got some nut cases in my family.  One of them lives in the house with Mrs. Sweetie.  Family can drive you crazy sometimes, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.  What that means is that you care enough about each other that the way you interact affects your life.  I can pretty well forget the random person who does something goofy that affects a moment of my life because I am unlikely to interact with them again.

Since I can’t forget family, I’ve got to choose how I interact with them.  Romans 12:18 says, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you [emphasis mine], live at peace with everyone.”  I am only in control of me.  But I am in control of me.  The reason I had such a great relationship with my mother-in-law is that I chose to ignore some things about her and she chose to ignore some things about me.

I’m probably going to be writing about women for several weeks.  Embrace the estrogen, guys.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Lord, I Just Want to Thank You for My Mama

“Lord, I just want to thank you for my mama.  I’ve been the cause of so many of her tears.   
She weeps in times of sorrow and there are tears in times of joy. 
 How can my cries always reach my mama’s ears?

Lord, I just want to thank you for my mama.  Her labors of love have so often been for me; 
a warm blanket tucked up under my chin and lacing shoes that I couldn’t tie. 
 Her love for me never let her labor cease.

Lord, I just want to thank you for my mama and for the times she’s spent before You on her knees.   
Of all of the places she could choose, there is no better place to be.   
May she always love You much more than she loves me.

Even though she’s changing and bears the marks of aging, I can’t help but notice in her eyes; 
there’s such a joy in living and such a grace in giving. I know she’s pressing toward a prize. 
Oh, Lord, I just want to thank you for my mama.”

I wrote those words, and the tune to go with them to sing as a special Mother’s Day song at church in 1992.  I sang it as a duet with a lady in our church.  In 1993, I recorded the song, along with seven other family-themed original songs on a project titled, “In the Family Way.”  On the recording, I sang it as a duet with my five-year-old daughter. In a couple of weeks, that little girl will be twenty-five.  I still love to hear that recording and I still enjoy singing the song on occasion.

I’m still thankful for my mama and today (April 22) is her 78th birthday.  I’m going to call her in a little while.  The card was mailed a few days ago, so hopefully she will get it today.  As my own kids have grown up, I have come to understand better some of the things Mom has been telling me for years.  I’m 51 years old, 6’ 2”, and 220(ish) pounds.  In her eyes, I am still, and always will be, her little boy.  I’m still the cause of a lot of her tears, both sad and happy.  And she has enough of them to go around for all three of her kids, all six of her grand-kids, and anyone else who needs some.

There’s a line in that song that can’t be understood without some context: “I know she’s pressing toward a prize.” Philippians 3:13-14 says, “But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

The best gift a mama can give is not to give her best to her children, but to let them see her give her best to the Lord.

Thanks, Mom.  Happy birthday.

Following the Leader

(Written 4/13/2013)

Almost everyone, at some time, has played "Follow the Leader".  I have always liked this  game.  As long as I am leading.  I can be a good follower as long as the leader is going somewhere I want to go. But I can be pretty impatient if I am asked to follow somewhere else.  That statement was only partially true. I can be impatient, but it really isn't very pretty.

For the past week or so, I've spent a lot of time focused on leadership.  I spent four full days at a retreat center near Glen Rose, Texas with a group of about 30 church leaders focusing on becoming better servant leaders. At this retreat, I was one of the students.  I was home from this retreat for about twelve hours before I left to take another group of leaders to Green Bay, Wisconsin to lead a conference for church leaders. 

I am writing this from a hotel room in Green Bay.  There is snow on the ground. It is 40 degrees colder here than it is at home. I will be preaching tomorrow morning in a church full of people I have never met, who are probably Packers fans! I will be leading a workshop tomorrow afternoon for a group of church leaders, most of whom I have never met, who operate in a different culture than the one where I spend my days. What can I possibly have to offer?  What in the world am I doing here?  What if I look back and no one is there?

I ask myself these questions and myself answers, "So what? It's not about you!"

Here's a great truth for life and for leaders.  If you can't follow, you have no business leading.  The moment you think you have nothing left to learn, or that you don't need anyone else's input, you have lost your effectiveness as a leader.

So how do you know whom to follow? Glad you asked.

Then he [Jesus] told all of them, “If anyone wants to come with me, he must deny himself, pick up his cross every day, and follow me continually, because whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. What profit will a person have if he gains the whole world, but destroys himself or is lost?" (Luke 9:23-25)

Did you know that Jesus never once told people He wanted them to become "Christians".  The word Jesus used was "disciple". A disciple is one who follows, learns, obeys, and acts like Jesus.

Here's my message to leaders (and my reminder to myself): You may be a leader, but you are not at the head of the line.  Our lives matter so much to God that He protects us from the pressure of having to be in charge of the world.

Now, if I were in charge of the world ... That really wouldn't be pretty.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Let the Wind Blow

As I write this morning I am sitting by my living room window listening to the wind blow.  The sun is not yet up, so I can’t see anything out there yet.  But I can hear the gusts every few seconds.  That sound makes me glad that I am spending most of my day indoors.  I’m not a big fan of wind. It stirs up my allergies and messes with my hairdo.  And somehow it never blows my leaves into my neighbor’s yard, but always blows his into mine.

I grew up in West Texas where they have real wind.  As a tennis player in high school, I had to learn to adjust my game for windy days.  Sometimes we played in wind so hard that we had to serve underhand.  And, depending on the direction of the wind, we could hit a high lob completely outside the fence and it would blow back onto the court before it landed.  On those days, it was not necessarily the best player who won.  The winner would likely be the person who best adjusted his game to the wind and used the wind to his advantage.

I don’t know much (really anything) about sailing, but I have heard that the best sailors know how to use the wind to their advantage.  Anybody can just let the wind propel them in whatever way it is blowing, but those who know how to properly trim their sails are able to keep moving toward their destination even in unfriendly winds.

We live in a windy world—and not just in the Spring.  Winds of change are blowing in the social, political, and religious realms and it seems as if they are gusting in a way that some significant changes may be on the horizon. And, at least from my perspective, some of those changes are not for the better. 

So what’s a person to do on these blustery days?  One option is to try to stop the wind.  Let me know how that works out for you. Or we can curse the wind.  There’s a lot of that going on, but I haven’t noticed it making much difference on the wind.  Of course we could always just concede and let the wind blow us where it will.  Some are choosing that option.  Still another option is to build a windbreak and hunker down and wait for it to blow over.  We’ve got a few that are trying that.

I’d like to suggest one more option.  Learn to use the wind like a good sailor.  Focus on the destination, trim the sails, batten down the hatches, tie the riggings (I’ve watched a lot of pirate movies). Learn to use the wind to make the most of today’s opportunities.  Our lives matter to the One who rides the wind (Psalm 104:3) and who can command the wind (Mark 4:41). He invites us to ride with Him, so let the wind blow.

I’ll adjust.

Monday, April 1, 2013

God Sent You Here

That’s what she said. “God sent you here.  I didn’t know her.. We had made eye contact and smiled pleasantly as we passed on the canned vegetables aisle moments earlier.  Now I was passing by breakfast cereal headed toward coffee when she smiled broadly, pointed at me, and said, “God sent you here.

Since Life Matters expanded my writing ministry into the newspaper column world, I have the privilege of “talking to” people I might never have otherwise.  It is not uncommon, as I travel to the different churches that are part of my primary ministry responsibility, to have people mention that they enjoy my column.  I also get that sometimes when I am introduced to folks from around this area. And since my picture, albeit a more svelte and less gray one from 2006, appears alongside, people sometimes recognize my bearded face.

This was my assumption in that moment in front of the coffee.  I thought I had not only met a “fan”, but one who went beyond just enjoying what I write.  I thought this might be someone who had been really touched by my ministry.  Maybe God had used my words in a special way for her in a time of need. 

This is what I thought.  I was mistaken.

As I drew closer, she spoke again.  “I need one of those decaf packages on the top shelf.  Could you reach it for me?”  She didn’t recognize me or appreciate me for my writing.  She just noticed that God made me tall and gave me long arms.  Cleanup on the coffee aisle!  An ego has just melted and run all over the floor!

Actually, I have had the ministry of grocery store tallness for all of my adult life.  I am happy to reach the top shelf for people who can’t do so and have even volunteered my services when I have seen people stretching for something just out of reach.  As this dear lady thanked me and walked away she said, “You’ve done your good deed for the day.” 

I hope not.

I hope I am not satisfied with being tall.  I hope there is more potential for good deeds than that.  But I do believe she was right when she said, “God sent you here.  God does have a purpose for my life.  As much as I enjoy writing, preaching, coaching, consulting, and mentoring, my ministry must include acts of kindness and compassion.

Jesus said, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven." (Matthew 5:16, emphasis mine).

The day I don’t have time to do something good for another person is the day I should stop writing.  Our lives matter so much to God that He wants us to make the most of every opportunity to serve others.

My life’s mission is to bless, not impress.  That’s why He sent me here.