07 May

Given to care 

Jesus didn’t just see, he noticed as his critics watched and scrutinized!

Jesus was aware and sensitive to the needs of others. He was given to care while others were prone to criticize and critique.

Jesus empathized with the weakness while critics emphasized how others had fallen short.

Jesus consoled. The critics condemned.

He sought to be helpful as others were hurtful.

He came to save lives while pundits sought only to destroy it.

His approach was far more than an attitude, persecutive or modus operandi. His way was a way of life. It was an outflow of who he was.

He was in the game. He was not a spectator. He joined us in our pain, suffering and hurt. He didn’t just see, he noticed and took action with no regard to rules, regulations or traditions.  

Sometimes in life you just do the right thing because it’s the right thing not because it is called for in a rule book. 

We get a glimpse of a real life situation in the gospel of Mark, chapter three. It is clear in the passage that Jesus was focused on the needs, hurts and pains of others. He truly felt their suffering and as a result was not applauded but rather criticized for it!

It is easy to overlook his passion for people because of who he was. We look past the naysayers and just see it as just another day in the life of Jesus. 

We overlook his actions until we find ourselves in the story. Like the man with the deformed hand that Jesus healed, we find ourselves impacted by a man that didn’t just see, but noticed our pain and suffering and reached out to us and did something about it despite the pressure to play life by the book and the letter of the law.

Jesus finds us right where we are, reaches out to us, asks us to take a step in his direction in order that we might be transformed by the touch of his hand.

Here is the good news. Jesus is still meeting us where we are today. No matter what struggles we face, mental, emotional or physical, he notices, he cares and he is prepared to walk with us despite what others might say or think. He doesn’t just see. He takes notice time and time again!

As life brings others our way, will we just see or will we also notice? Will we empathize or emphasize their weaknesses? Will we seek to console or condemn? Help or hurt? Breathe life into the situation or drive the final nail in the coffin?

The choice is ours. When we recognize the need for compassion, mercy and grace in our own lives it tends to manifest itself as love in the lives of others. 

Let’s choose love today and grant life in the lives of others as we don’t just see but notice the potential that waits to be awakened within them.

05 May

Pinocchio’s Dilemma

Are you a puppet leader? If you are, deep inside, despite the persona you present, you know you have the title, you have the position but like Pinocchio, your every move is controlled from behind the scenes. You are not your own man. You are a sycophant. A yes-man.

The master manipulators pull your strings and play you like a rag doll. The minute you have an original idea or fail to comply, they gently pull your strings with threats and innuendos. 

Fail to follow and before you know it, they cut you off, take you out and drop you to the floor like a useless head of lettuce. This is especially so if the limelight seems to have gone from the so-called creator and onto the beloved carved creation who succeeds.  

Things go well so long as you and the other puppets in the production play along, dance to the music and keep their “noses” clean. 

Question not, look the other way, limit your critique, ignore your gut, stuff your character, simply comply and all will go well. 

It’s sad really. Like Pinocchio, puppet leaders deeply desire to be real and to be genuine. They yearn for freedom from the the powers that be, those passive aggressive control freaks that subtly circumvent, twist the strings and maneuver like a snake in the grass. They go unnoticed until Pinocchio eventually has enough. He can no longer ignore his conscious. He breaks free and becomes a real leader. A real man, not a yes man but a man led by his heart and the real Creator.

Retired major league baseball player, Adam LaRoche, captured the essence of Pinocchio’s dilemma when he said, “In life, we’re all faced with difficult decisions and will have a choice to make. Do we act based on the consequences, or do we act on what we know and believe in our hearts to be right?” 

Every puppet leader will ultimately come face to face with who he really wants to be. A puppet on a sting, with a title and a position, or a real man, a real leader, beholding to God alone and led by strong convictions and a clear conscience.

 

30 Apr

Keep walking!

Learning to walk in the shoes of another is to experience a journey from emphatic to instinctive empathy.

When under consistent emotional distress and pain we become conditioned to build an emotional barrier between ourselves and others. 

We become unable to empathize or take on the pain of others due to the level of discontent we ourselves have experienced. As a result, we fail to express empathy for others for sake of our own survival and in an effort to preserve our mental and physical wellbeing. 

Quite simply, our pain has caused us to reach our empathy threshold. We are at our limit and are unable to take on the added emotional baggage of others strictly as a matter of preserving our personal sanity. 

Living under prolonged conditions of abuse and dysfunction hardwires our brains for self preservation and leaves little room for empathy for others due to the level of personal stress we have endured.

It is not that we don’t care, want to be unkind or are insensitive. We simply have nothing else to give. Our emotional tank has been tapped. It is bone dry and is in need of replenishment in its own right. We have been hurt and now our inability to recover has left us unable to empathize with others. The hurt multiples not so much as a result of what we do but as a result of what we don’t do as needs for empathy go unmet in the lives of others.

Only when we are removed from the negative environment are we in a position to consider utilizing our empathy reserves for others. Even then the thought of empathizing with others may come with reluctance for fear of needing to retain empathy for our own needs. 

Once we have become stronger emotionally and no longer perceive the need for empathy ourselves are we then in a position to extend and grant empathy to others. 

Until such time, our use of empathy will be emphatic and much less instinctive. With improved circumstances, greater self awareness and regular intentionality, our empathy for others will grow as we project the empathy we have had for ourselves into the lives of others. 

Because we are in a better state of mind, the world will be a better place as we learn to express greater empathy for one another. 

Walking in the shoes of another becomes easier as we have walked in shoes of our own.  

Nonetheless, we must keep walking! We’re in this together!

30 Apr

Definded by success?

What does success look like for you?

Is winning required in order to be successful or is finishing all that is required? Then again, is success more about the experience than the finish line?

Do you have to be the best or is doing your best success for you?

How do you define success? A life with no regrets? Getting through another day? Staying out of trouble? Or the number of zeros in your paycheck.

How success is defined can be strictly personal or completely universal.

What role does timing, luck, circumstances and providence play in your success? How much of your success depends on effort and preparedness?

Does success require intentionality or does success show up by chance?

How will you know if you have succeeded? Can success be guaranteed?

What defines your life? Is your life defined by success? How is it defined at all?

Unless you define success how will you know if you have succeeded? 

29 Apr

Late bloomers boom!

At age 23, Tina Fey was working at a YMCA.

At age 23, Oprah was fired from her first reporting job. At age 24, Stephen King was working as a janitor and living in a trailer. 

At age 27, Vincent Van Gogh failed as a missionary and decided to go to art school.  

At age 28, J.K. Rowling was a suicidal single parent living on welfare.

At age 30, Harrison Ford was a carpenter. 

At age 37, Ang Lee was a stay-at-home-dad working odd jobs.

Julia Child released her first cookbook at age 39, and got her own cooking show at age 51.

Vera Wang failed to make the Olympic figure skating team, didn’t get the Editor-in-Chief position at Vogue, and designed her first dress at age 40.

Stan Lee didn’t release his first big comic book until he was 40.

Alan Rickman gave up his graphic design career and landed his first movie role at age 42.

Samuel L. Jackson didn’t get his first major movie role until he was 46. 

Morgan Freeman landed his first major movie role at age 52.

Whatever your dream is, it is not too late to achieve it.

Never tell yourself you’re too old to make it.

Never tell yourself you missed your chance.

Never tell yourself that you aren’t good enough.

You can do it. Whatever it is.

(Not sure of the original source but I sure believe it)

20 Apr

Fat tax!

So today I went to pick up a pair of new waders from Cabela’s for my up and coming flying fishing trip. They rang up at $159. I assured the cashier that they were suppose to be $149.

She called for a price check. We waited a while so I decided to lend a hand. 

Certain that I was correct I snapped a pic of the price and headed back to the checkout stand. 

It was about this time that my vision blurred and my life went into instant replay slo-mo mode. Her voice deepened and everything she said was then in that spooky undercover eyewitness voice you hear on cop shows where you only see a silhouette. 

Like a bad call in the NFL she looks at the pic and declares, “Upon further review it appears the ruling at the register stands. The price is in fact $159.” What? I took a closer look and there it was. Regular fit was $149 but stout fit was indeed $159!

I had been busted by a fat tax!

All I have to say is, the fish better be biting! 

My big butt has cost me another $10 and I haven’t even got my hook wet!

13 Apr

Gone Fish’n!

We learn in the gospels that when Peter, Andrew, James and John encountered Jesus, while out fishing, they immediately dropped what they were doing and followed him. 

What was so compelling about Jesus that caused grown men to make a radical change in their plans? 

What avid fisherman do you know that would readily and enthusiastically drop his fishing pole for anything other than to bait his hook in preparation for another cast?

What motivated these men to stop what they were doing and follow Jesus?

We find a hint in John 1:14 where the scriptures reveal Jesus was full of unfailing love and faithfulness.

Can you imagine meeting such a person? Someone so full of love and faithfulness that such words were the only way you could think of describing them? Jesus was that kind of guy.

How did Jesus say people would know we are his disciples? Is it any surprise that his trademark would be the key to success? Simply put, it is by our love for one another. (John 13:35)

Jesus said I will show you how to fish for people. I will teach you how to be fishers of men. In essence, Jesus was saying, I will show you how to love. 

Love is irresistible. No wonder the apostles dropped what they were doing and followed Jesus. His love compelled their heats to change. His love compelled them to love God, love others as they loved themselves.

It is interesting that Jesus compared his ministry to fishing. Anyone who has ever learned to fish knows the best way to learn is from a master fisherman.

It looks easy but only because the master understands fish, he knows how to gain their attention. What he offers is irresistible and draws them in.

We would do well to stop what we are doing. Our strategies, techniques and gimmicks pale in comparison to what Jesus has to offer. We need to simply follow Jesus and let him teach us how to fish. 

Like a lot of novice fishermen, we tend to over complicate it. Jesus was full of love and faithfulness. People found him to be utterly irresistible. What a guy!

May others find us in pursuit of him and in so doing experience the love and faithfulness that comes when only on a fishing trip with Jesus.

Needless to say, I’m hooked. How about you? See yah, I’m gone fish’n!

08 Apr

Forever treasured

What a sweet reminder we see in the life of Mary as she treasured the experiences she shared with her young child.

She captured the tender moments. She did not let them pass without relishing them, cherishing each and every one and writing them as memories on her heart.

Babies grow up fast. Life does not wait to enlist their services. Before we know it, we look up and they are gone.

But like Mary, we can pause. We can freeze time if only for a moment and treasure the memory of the little blessing that was ours if only for a while in our presence but forever in our hearts.

“Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often.” Luke 2:19

“And his mother stored all these things in her heart.” Luke 2:51b