Wounded Warriors

Life is full of pain.  As leaders, wherever we are, we must learn to help those that are hurting.  A lost loved one, a break-up, financial loss, tough diagnosis.  We will all face some really bad news and we will also be in a position to help someone who is suffering.  So what do you do when you are hit with helping someone who is hurting?  I think you can look at it a bit like triage for a battlefield wound.

Africa 2009- Sunset on the Zambezi River

Africa 2009- Sunset on the Zambezi River

Assess the wound:  The depth of the situation and the condition of the person that is suffering needs to be considered carefully.  Is this something that I can help with?  Sometimes the best way to help is to simply listen.  Fight the urge to have all the answers or give advice until you are sure they are ready and you really know the facts.  Job’s friends sat with him for seven days and seven nights before saying even  one word to him.  Merely being present and providing comfort is often all you need to do.

Stop the bleeding:  If you have the ability to intercede in a practical way in the situation, then block off the thing that is causing the immediate pain.  This may be offering help to get out of the situation that they are in.  This might be a medical reference, financial help, a friend who has walked the same path before.  Sometimes the wound will not be immediately repairable and it will continue to bleed.  Be encouraged that just being there provides wound dressing and provides your friend with strength to continue.

Move them:  Getting a new perspective or location can help in getting away from a bad situation.  Think of ways you can improve their perspective.  Get them involved in new activities.  Help them change their daily rituals and habits.  Find something new that will open their eyes to other things so they will stop focusing on the past and the pain.

Operating Room:  If the situation is truly serious, get them to the experts.  Don’t attempt to fix deeply rooted or potentially dangerous problems on your own.   Realize and admit that you are over your head.  Giving bad advice can actually be more damaging than the original wound.  Hand it off to an expert.

Most importantly pray!  Pray that the Lord would bring healing and restoration.  Pray with them.  Regardless of their level of faith, the vast majority of people will accept prayer and the act of prayer will help to build their faith in times when things seem to be falling apart.  The reassurance that the Lord is always there and loves them completely is an amazing comfort in a tough situation.

Pain will always be a part of life.  We must be ready to serve those who are hurting.  You don’t always need the answers.  Realize that being in a painful situation is often a very lonely place.  People will naturally avoid getting involved in painful situations, sometimes out of fear.  Just providing an ear to listen and companionship is often enough.  Comfort them.  Let them know that they are not alone.  Reach out- they need you!

Why is it so lonely when you are hurting?  Have you had circumstances where you wish you would have become involved?  Click on Comments and tell me your story!

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Ask the Experts!

Recently, Kathy and I were sitting on our back patio (lanai is the fancy realtor description) in the cool of the morning enjoying a hot cup of coffee and the fluorescent beauty of the morning.  The birds were wide awake.  We have a bird feeder and we keep it well stocked with a high quality seed mix that keeps them coming back.  We have generations of cardinals that are now permanent North Florida residents as well as a group of morning doves, mockingbirds, and a host of other songbirds that are regulars each morning.

 eagle

As I sat and watched the show, I began to consider the way the birds really love the morning.  I can remember times camping when the birds would start singing at 4 am.  My response- gosh guys go back to bed!  It’s way too early!  Yet the morning is a truly special time for the birds.  They wake and they sing for the morning.  It’s like they are screaming,  “You need to get up and see this amazingly beautiful day!” They are the epitome of the morning person!

The morning is their choice.  They could easily pick the afternoon or the evening.  Unlike our comfortable living, the birds live in close contact with the natural.  They experience the earth like no other creature, living outside and largely unprotected.  They are the experts.  And they choose the morning.

So what is so special about the morning?  Here are a few reasons I think that the birds choose the morning and why you should too!

The stillness and quiet of the morning.  The birds know that their song will really carry in the morning.  They know they really own the morning.  For us, the morning gives us stillness that allows us to rest, think and let our mind wander. The stillness provides insulation from the distractions and noise of the day.  We can let our minds sing- released from the bonds of obligations and schedules.  Are you singing in the morning?

The coolness of the morning is a great time to get your work done before the heat of the day.  The birds know that they can get their business done and wait out the heat in the shade of the trees.  The morning is a perfect time to plow through your work so you can shift into a lower gear as the day heats up.  If you get the heavy lifting done in the cool of the day, you will extend your energy and be more productive.  Do you run at hyper speed in the heat of the day?

The morning is a safe place.  The predators are still sleeping and the birds group together for protection.  The birds know these facts.  The morning is theirs.  The can relax a bit more than normal.  They have the numbers and they watch out for each other.  You can also own the morning.  Seems like only good things happen early in the morning.  Evil is asleep.  Do you get up early and enjoy the protection of the morning?

The morning is a time where we are refreshed and recharged.  The batteries are on full again! The birds are darting around with extra vigor.  If danger is present, they are able to make a quick get away with strength stored from the night of rest.  This rest is also powerful for us too.  The morning is the best time to exercise and do physical activity.  Your body is designed for this.  Are you taking advantage of this stored energy?

The morning screams of His perfect design.  The beauty of creation.  Diversity.  A new day and cleansing of the old.  You can see the vigor and playfulness in the birds in the morning.  They are out enjoying life and exploring the abundance of this earth.  The morning is a great time to reflect and begin anew.  Put yesterday behind and embark on a new day with discovery and adventure.  Are you taking advantage of the extravagant beauty and gift of the new day?

I love the mornings.  I always have.  My mom never worried about waking me up, I was always the first up and out the door.  I remember being mesmerized as a kid by the beauty of the morning.  I still love everything about it.   How about you?  Can you break the love affair with your pillow?  The experts know the secret.  Give it a try- you’ll see!

Do you follow the experts advice?  Do you love the mornings?  Click “Like” if you do!  If not so much- click on comments and tell me your story!

Wake Up Sleeper!

Last week a friend of mine had a headache and vision problems, so he went to the emergency room. A little more than a day latter, he passed away. A stroke they say. He was in good health. No signs of any problems. He left an amazing family and a beautiful wife behind and alone. You just can’t make sense of this stuff.

"The best way to make dreams come true is...

This is the third friend that I have lost recently. All around my age and all very sudden. I think we all get the fact that we don’t get to choose when we will die. And many of us will die suddenly. The thing we can control is how we will live.

Wake up sleeper…the days are evil!

On Sunday, our pastor shared a message about this choice. We must learn to live our lives with a sense of urgency. Our plan for greatness usually goes something like this: I plan on starting my dream once I get finished with… Leaders are great planners. We think through the details and methodically move each piece in place. We are convinced that this is the best way, but really, its just the safe way. To reach greatness takes risk. To accelerate the process you probably will need to jump early. Waiting until everything is perfect just chews up time- you may never find just the right time.

Fear is a great motivator.
Fear is a clarifier.
Fear is an accelerator.

Safe and Sound

We are programmed to prepare for the impending disaster. We are convinced that no one will be there for you. American individualism. We must store up and save. Seek safety and all it brings. But are we really ever safe? There are countless events that could occur that will make all of your wealth and comfort useless. Safety is really an illusion. You can store your entire life and loose it all in an instant.  Struggle your whole life for nothing instead of enjoying the ride! Are you seeking security or seeking life to the full?

Check the Box

In the midst of trying to get to where we want to go we spend our time trying to check off the items we have completed. Trying to get done. Happy that something is over. I just need to get through this. What is that? We live as though the goal is to be done. Just survival. Is this all there is? Don’t you want to live, not just survive?

The Megaphone

The thing we try hardest to avoid is actually the thing that can wake us up. CS Lewis said that pain is a megaphone.  It wakes us up and brings us back to reality. When everything is going smoothly, we live in a kind of slumber of ease and security and we loose touch…

With what is really important.
With how fragile our lives really are.
With our dreams and what we were uniquely created to do.

Pain is the wake up call. It’s a way to bring you back. I hate it, yet it is like a slap on the face. You remember why you are here. What is really important. What you are doing now and what you want to get done.

Loosing these friends has awakened me. The world seems different. My priorities have changed.

Wake up sleeper-there is much to do!

Can you relate to this?  Why do we dwell on safety and security?  Do you find yourself living just to “get done”?  Click on comments and let me know what you think!

Different Is Good!

Yesterday Kathy and I went on a hike through the Cahuita National Park along the Carribean coast of Costa Rica.  We had a guide who had an amazing eye to pick out wildlife far off in the trees.  The diversity of life that we saw was remarkable, yet everything fit together and you had the feeling that it all belonged together

Why do we always strive for things to be the same?
This park is located along the Carribean coast near Panama.  This area was settled by turtle hunters from the Carribean islands about 150 years ago.  These settlers have roots in Africa so they do not look the same as either the indigenous natives or the native Costa Ricans.
The lore is that the Costa Rica Carribean coast is more dangerous because of these Carribean natives and widespread drug influences.  Well, we were approached by the Rastafari peddling their stuff but this is not much different than any Carribean beach town.  So why is there so much talk of this area being so dangerous?  What is the reason that there is this fear and apprehension about this area?
Because they are different.
Costa Rica is not immune from discrimination.  The native Costa Ricans complain about the Nicaraguans as well as the African Carribean people.  A wise lady told us that she believes that the discrimination is based on money.  The Costa Ricans feel that they have these illegals and others costing the country money, much the same as our current conversation in the U.S.  I think this is part of it.  There is a self centered element in nearly every discussion and this logic is consistent here.  Yet, I think there is more to this.
I think much of the struggle for diversity is based on fear.
We want things to be the same.  We want things to be like us.  Anything else brings a sense of discomfort.  We like things vanilla.  We like security and the predictable.  Yet, this is not the design.
Nature screams diversity.  The design of everything from our Creator is abundant, rich, and diverse.  So what can we do as leaders?
Fight the urge for conformity.  When choosing your team, make some bold choices.  Choose the ones that are not like you, or the ones that don’t fit the mold.  If you are analytical, choose the artist.  If you are an introvert, maybe the conversationalist.  A diverse team will always be superior.  This is the design of nature.  Different is better.  You will see!

Light the Path

I believe that there is a desire to make a difference in the world that is woven into us at birth.  To make your mark- to put a “dent in the universe”.  Your choice is to either follow these desires and dreams or suppress them and give up.  The choice to give up is easy when you think it’s impossible.  Our job as leaders is to illuminate the path.  Model doing the impossible or the uncomfortable.  This is a story about lighting the path.

Light for my path

I was sitting beside a small fire on NewYears eve enjoying the company of some good friends and some outrageously large oysters.  Sitting at the fire was a girl named Rebecca who is the daughter of some good friends from church.  Rebecca was home for the holidays and was sharing some ministry stories that occurred while she was away at college in North Carolina.  Rebecca was able to seek out and find an inner-city ministry near her campus where she served on weekends.  She also shared that she had located a street church where service takes place outside in the yard of an abandoned church.  She shared some amazing stories of how she was able to serve and develop relationships with the poor in the community near her campus and also serve a church that tragically lost it’s pastor and continues because of a great effort by the surviving family.  She was beaming as she shared several truly amazing stories of restoration and God’s infinite grace.  This was my highlight of the evening.
 
While she was sharing, I began to connect the dots.  Rebecca had served throughout her high school years nearly every Saturday at an inner-city street ministry that we have at our church.  Rebecca was a regular.  She made a strong connection with the folks in the neighborhood.  When she left for college I was regularly asked where she was.  See- Rebecca made an impact!  Not by giving out surplus food, but through her amazing smile and her way of being genuinely interested in their lives.  Rebecca went deeper.  Yes- Rebecca is special- but there is more.
 
As I considered her impact, it occurred to me that the beginning of the trail actually started with her parents willingness to serve.  If her parents hadn’t modeled this behavior, it is very unlikely that Rebecca would be serving the poor in North Carolina.  It can be a tough decision to take your child downtown to serve in a dangerous neighborhood.  You can easily talk yourself out of it.  Also, to model the behavior, you actually have to get out of bed early each Saturday and drive to the ministry.  I have experienced this one first hand.  Your pillow is a hard thing to give up on the only day each week that you have to sleep in!  Yet, over both of these, they were faithful.  And their faithfulness was rewarded with a daughter that truly “gets it”.
 
Many folks work hard their entire lives trying to make that “dent in the universe”.  They store up money and build empires.  They seek to get their name on a building somewhere.  They work really hard to make their children wealthy, comfortable and self-sufficient.
 
All of these are fleeting.  Wealth will eventually be lost or squandered away.  Buildings will eventually crumble and fall.  And the pursuit of comfort and independence ends unfullfilled.

The secret is often right next to you.  You have to choose to light the path for others.  You can show them how to truly influence lives.  And when you do, it’s contagious.  They will continue on modeling for others and then the multiplication factor kicks in.
 
This is how you can truly change the world!  So, what is your plan?  Will you continue to build an empire based on things that will eventually crumble or will you invest in things that will march on for generations.  Maybe a quick look at your planner might reveal where your heart truly is?  It starts with taking a risk and putting yourself out there.  Are you ready?  Can you break the power of your pillow and the pursuit of comfort to light the path for others? 

What are some easy things that you have done that you have seen repeated by others?  Is success and comfort what your children really need?  Click on comments and let me know what you think!

Get Rich!

Ah- the American Dream!  Big house, fancy cars, fat retirement account, 2 kids, a dog and a white picket fence.  Is this really a dream or is it a curse?  For your typical overachiever (like me) the pursuit of wealth can be all consuming.  It can swallow you and ALL of your energy.  Is this what life is all about?  Is this really the DREAM?

Africa 2009- Sunset on the Zambezi River

If you ask any successful person about their life goals you will likely get a response that refers in some way to money.  While I understand that money brings a level of security and clarity to the future, I am convinced that we place far too great an emphasis on the need to have money and possessions to feel successful.

I remember telling the lady who took my high school senior pictures that my only goal in life was to be happy.  Have I really lived up to that statement? 

In my mission travels and service work, I have had the pleasure to meet the most remarkable people.  In many cases these folks have very little money or possessions, yet they live as though they are wealthy with an amazing attitude and a genuine zest for life.  I have other friends who have abundant resources and wealth and they are simply miserable.  This is an amazing paradox- Those with less are often happier than those with more.  As I have examined this phenomenon, I have begun to redefine my view of what it means to be rich.

How can the poorest folks in the world be so happy?  How can they have any feeling of security and peace not knowing where they will get their next meal?

Living the rich life is really about depth.  The truly rich people that I have met take the time and make the effort to cultivate deep relationships and love for their families, friends and communities.  This is so contrary to our modern lifestyle today.  We try so hard to be everywhere and everything at once.   We typically have nothing but “drive-by” relationships.  Even our relationships with our families can be weak and superficial.  And the worst part is that we model the behavior to our children and coworkers.   

We must take the time to value others. 

We must take the time to give back to our community. 

We must take time to see the beauty that is all around us.

We must take to time to pour into others.

What we all have to give is truly priceless- and it cannot be duplicated.  We must fight the urge to remain on the surface.  We must go deep.  

Yes- it is dangerous. 

Yes- it is complicated.

Yes- it can be painful.

However, the rewards far outweight the risks.  So here is your “get rich” plan:

Put Things In Perspective:  Carve out things in your life that are consuming you only for the purpose of making money.  Yes- We all need to eat.   Yet, what kind of life are you living if you are killing yourself to make a living?  You will not starve.  You will be fine.

Slow Down:  You do not need to be the fastest at everything.  You are missing the world- it is passing you by!  Slow down and really SEE what is going on around you.  If you have conditioned your boss, friends, or spouse to expect lightspeed this may be a tough transition- but this is your life!  Take control of your time and your life.  We all experience stressful times but your life should not be a constant race.

Go Deep:  Take your relationships deeper by asking questions and sharing your own personal struggles.  To “go deep” you must be transparent and vulnerable.   The root of superficiality is really self-centeredness.  You must be willing to get closer to friends, family and coworkers in order to enjoy the richness that results from the deep bond of great relationships.

Get Involved:  Get off of the sidelines and get involved!  Give back to your community and those in need.  My wife and I have been in dirt floor huts and been offered food from the poorest folks you can imagine.  They get it! They want to serve us!  Find a service project or get involved in your church.  Find a young person and pour into them.  Share your knowledge and your life experiences.  Take time to train up the next generation.  They want your help.  They NEED your help.   

The rich life is a choice.  You can choose to chase money, fame, or possessions or you can choose to go deeper.  You can break free of the bonds of superficiality and enter a world of true love focused on others instead of yourself.  Are you ready?  Would you like to be rich?

Are you ready to enter the life of the rich?  Will you get serious about making the tough choices to add depth to your life?  Click on comments and let me know what you think!   

Empty Cathedrals

I have been watching a mega church construction project while commuting to and from work.  This is a really impressive project- super big building and giant size parking lot.  It really looks like a high school campus more than a church project.  I have heard that it cost 10 million dollars, which I think would be a great price for the facility based on the scale of the project.

Worship Service- Western Zambia 2009

Observing this project has led me to reflect on church construction and the costs associated with building a campus that is bigger and better than the church down the road.  Is bigger really better?  Is it really a wise use of resources to purchase and own a church building?

The purpose of the church building is ministry.  There is no use in the residual value of the investment to build a church.  When the church reaches the end of its effectiveness, they are generally sold at a giant discount and are used for other purposes.  I remember seeing a church in a city that was converted to a nightclub!  I recently saw a church in a magazine that was converted to a residence.  I have heard of isolated instances of reuse through purchasing by another church, however, this seems to be very limited.

There is some amazing architecture in church buildings.  The cathedrals of Europe are examples of this.  If the purpose is to provide really amazing architectural wonders- then go ahead and build them big.  However the cathedrals of Europe are largely empty on Sunday.  Ministry is not happening there.  Just tours to view the amazing buildings and huge costs for maintenance and restoration.

So- why can’t the church rent?  There is typically plenty of existing retail or office buildings that could be rented and remodeled to accomplish the needs of a church.  You may not have the impressive expansive sanctuaries and rows of classrooms but an old retail store or office building can be a practical and efficient alternative.  So, comfort or ministry? 

The costs to build and maintain a church campus is huge.   These costs limit the flexibility of how the church can use its resources.  The more efficient that you are in your facilities costs, the more available funds that you will have to minister to the needs of the community.  The costs to build and own a church often strangles a church budget and severely limits ministry resources.    

The Israelites lived in tents and they were able to move when the Lord moved.  Most churches go through cycles of growth and effectiveness, and yet they are tied to a fixed facility and location.  If a church is renting and struggling to be effective in their particular community and they feel that the Lord has opened the doors to move- they can move.  They are not tied to a permanent location.  When you leave, the building can be easily converted to another use and will not become another empty cathedral.

So I say- it is right for the church to rent!  I also believe that the Lord will provide a building Owner that will bless the church with a favorable rental terms.  Concentrate the resources of the church to reach the lost and minister to the poor. 

The temple is the old covenant.  The veil has been torn.  You have been commanded to go.  Let’s pour our resources into advancing His kingdom for His glory!

 “Every year in the United States, we spend more than $10 billion on church buildings.  In America alone, the amount of real estate owned by institutional churches is worth over $230 billion.  We have money and possessions, and we are building temples everywhere.  Empires, really.  Kingdoms.  We call them houses of worship.  But at the core, aren’t they too often outdated models of religion that wrongfully define worship according to a place and wastefully consume our time and money when God has called us to be a people who spend our lives for the sake of His glory among the needy outside the gates?”  Radical by David Platt.  

Do you agree or do you think that I am full of you know what?  Let me know by clicking on comment below!  

Top of the Order

I have been dreaming a lot lately.  This is pretty unusual for me.  I don’t typically dream much when I sleep.  Many of these dreams have been childhood visions and dreams of my Mom and Dad.  Several times, as I have awakened, I have been really struck with missing my parents.  I lost my Mom 23 years ago and my father passed away last October.  All of my grandparents are also gone.  I have been left with a feeling of being alone.  This is not your usual feeling of loneliness.  I have plenty of friends, lots of relatives, a wife and children.  However, this feeling is different- something that I have not experienced before.

Zambezi River- Zambia 2009

I guess I relied on my parents more than I had considered.  I always knew that I could phone my Dad to ask his opinion or just to share an experience.  I didn’t call him every day or even every week, but when I needed to talk he was there.  There was a comfort in knowing this.  There has been a bunch of times since his passing that I have had the urge to call him- actually reaching for my cellphone– then realizing that he won’t answer.

I am getting an understanding of what it feels like when an elderly person says “all my friends are gone”.  It’s lonely realizing that you are reaching the “top of the order”.  I have been considering this too.  I am now the senior male of our family- the oldest- the wisest?  Wow, really struggling with this too.  I’m supposed to have all the answers now?  Be the one with all the advice?  The sage of the family?  Just doesn’t feel right.

As I have been thinking about this new season, I have also been examining what it is like being at the top of an organization.  The pinnacle of an organization is also a lonely position.  As I have progressed in my career to an executive position, I have noticed that the gang no longer shares things with you- they treat you differently.  They don’t include you in their discussions.  Sometimes you walk in and thing get quiet.  They are now careful and guarded around you.   You are no longer part of the mainstream.  You are set apart.

Sometimes, leading is not really a question.  You realize that you have to lead- you really have no choice.  They need direction, guidance, and support.  They need someone that they can look up to.  Someone they can call on when they don’t know what to do.  You now have superior experience and wisdom.  Yet, the top can be a lonely place.  You don’t have a support system around you.  You may have others in similar positions that you can consult, but ultimately, you will have to make the final decision.

Leading is not easy.  I really enjoy helping others and serving, but it can be tiring.  I often think that it would be easier to take a lesser position, go backwards, and be part of the gang again.  But I can’t.  They need me.  And it’s my turn.

I wish my Dad was still here, but he’s gone.  So it’s my turn to be in front.  I suppose it will feel more natural as time goes on.  So I’ll strap on the pack and start marching.  That’s what you must do when you are at the top of the order.

Have you experienced the loneliness of being at the top of the order?  Have you ever felt isolated due to your position?  Click on comments and tell me your experience!         

Fire Hydrant or Wind Chime?

While driving back from the gym a few days ago a fire hydrant caught my eye.  It’s funny- there are thousands all around us yet we never really notice them.  The life of a fire hydrant is to sit patiently and wait for the rare chance that a fire occurs.  Yet, when a fire starts and the hydrant is turned on- then you are the star of the show!  Most fire hydrants will never be used to fight a fire.  However, when your house is burning. they are the most valuable thing in your life.  So they sit patiently and quietly.  They are nearly invisible, yet you are thankful that they are there.

There is a story in the Bible of a man named Job.  Job was afflicted with awful circumstances that resulted in him losing his family and his wealth along with physical afflictions that tested his faith in God.  When Job’s friends heard about his problems, they traveled to see him so they could comfort him.  When they arrived, they sat with Job for seven days and said nothing to him.  That’s right- nothing, absolutely nothing for seven days!  Could you do it?  Could you even sit for just a few hours in silence, being there to provide comfort?

To be honest, I struggle with this.  I want to fix the situation- give advice- be the rescuer.  Yet sometimes, you are better just being there and being quiet, like Job’s friends.

Then there is the wind chime.  I hear the one that is on our back patio right now.  With even the slightest breeze- it starts to sing.  The wind chime is designed to play beautiful tones and to be soothing.  And yet sometimes I just want silence.  It can actually be annoying.  Do you know someone who is a wind chime- always having something to say?  Do you find yourself sometimes skipping your story to avoid the chime?

Why do I feel like I have to say something?  Do I think I am smarter or have greater wisdom?  I can’t wait for them to ask me for advice?

Cancer patients commonly complain about feeling lonely and isolated.  Friends seem to avoid them as they don’t know what to say or they are uncomfortable just sitting with them, like Job’s friends.  What an awful paradox- the time you really need someone to be there is the time that folks seem to abandon you!  This is whacked.  How could this happen?

So what are you- a fire hydrant or a wind chime?  I am sure there are times for both- but do you find yourself jumping in with all the answers like the wind chime?  I know that sometimes I don’t want advice.  I just want some company as I sit under the tree like Job and try to sort out where I am.  Is there someone that you know that you could sit with and just be there?  Can you do it?  Can you sit and be silent and comforting?  Let me know what you think- comment below.

Don’t be a stealth reader!- click on comment and tell me what you think!