Punched in the Face!

You won’t really get away with it- they are watching you!

Kathy and I have been spending Saturday mornings serving at an inner city ministry giving out surplus bread and produce to the homeless and needy.  This has been our Saturday morning routine for the past seven years or so.  We completely enjoy serving and have helped to build a vibrant community that has taken the ministry far past the goal of just providing food.  This is a rough area.  An area of high crime and drug activity.  Shooting and violence are common in this neighborhood.

When we get set up, there is often a group of ladies who take cuts at the front of the line.  The men will often plead with us to do something about it.  These ladies are a tough bunch and have been fighting for their families for a very long time.  I get it.  Yet it is frustrating that they can get away with taking cuts. It causes unrest. Even when we speak up, they continue to do what they want and often ignore our requests.

After observing this activity and the reactions, I have figured out how they can get away it. If they were men, the other guys would take care of things. Right or wrong.

They would likely get punched in the face!

Respect and special treatment for women or other groups are not uncommon.  And there is nothing wrong with special privileges.

Unless you take advantage of the situation. 

Leadership often comes with some special privileges.  You may have the opportunity to be in the front.  First in line.  You may be able to avoid some unpleasant tasks or duties as a result of your position.  You are likely to be treated differently than the average person.

The key is how you decide to handle these privileges.  If you are a servant leader, you can’t differentiate yourself from your team.  The truth, in terms of servant leadership, is this:  You are part of the team and you just happen to be the leader.  You must stay in the trenches with your team.  You have to be willing to get dirty and do the work along side your people.  If you exalt yourself above your team and take advantage of your position, you have violated one of the key components of being a servant leader.

Special privileges with leadership must be used with caution.  You cannot hide.  They see everything you do.  Your heart is exposed by your actions.  Be careful.  Always.  They are watching you!

So what do you think?  Have you seen examples of folks taking advantage of special privileges in leadership positions?  Click on “leave a comment” and tell me what you think!

 

The Daily Do Over

His eyes were tearing up while he shared his story.  A story we have heard before.  Trying hard to hold down two jobs.  Twenty years in the prison system.  Wife addicted to crack cocaine.  He tries his best to keep her inside the house in order to keep her away from the neighborhood predators.  Health problems.  Car problems.  All of this is overwhelming.  He’s trying hard to keep focused- but it’s really hard.  He looses his cool sometimes and lashes out.  He struggles to stay on the right side.  Things are not fair.  He’s tired.  He’s VERY tired.

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Life is hard.  We have a tendency to put pressure on ourselves for our failures.  Our mistakes.  I shared with this guy that the Lord has given us a great design to help us handle these failures.

Every morning, the sun comes up and it’s a new day.  Each day is an opportunity to forget about yesterday and do it right today.  And if you fail again, you can try again tomorrow.  We get a “do over” every single day.

Some days are magnificent.  Everything just falls into place.  Smiles.  Laughter.  Family.  Hope.

Some days are tough.  Really tough.  You just want to crawl in a hole and wait for it to end.

Then the sun comes up again!

What a great design- huh?  If our lives were one really long day we couldn’t do it.  We would get completely overwhelmed.  We would be discouraged.  Beaten down and unable to recover.

I encourage him.  I told him the stay focused on what is good.  Don’t be deceived by the enemy who is trying to hold you down.  Keep fighting the good fight.  Don’t listen to those voices that are trying to make you feel hopeless.  You have much to be thankful for.  You ARE making it.  You CAN find your way out of this.

You get a do over.  Every single day.  You can put yesterday behind you and look forward to a new day of promise, opportunity, and hope.  He designed it this way.  Don’t look back.  He made a way for you to recharge and refocus.

He makes all things new!

Have you ever considered what it would be like to live one enormously long day?  Do you take advantage of the daily do over?  Is the morning your time?   Click on “leave a comment” and let me know what you think!

Take Back Christmas!

I think everyone would agree- Christmas is special.  Regardless of your level of faith, the holiday brings a wonder of warmth, family, and giving to others.  The feeling of Christmas is hard to describe.  For children it may be focused on the gifts, and with age, the focus shifts to family, friends and the gathering together of loved ones.  There is a special love that surrounds this most special holiday.

Christmas in the post-War United States

What is this love?

Where does it come from?

Why does it feel so good?

I believe that the wonder and that feeling of warmth and love is a glimpse of our Father’s love.  Unconditional.  Complete.  Without any strings or requirements.  Like the love of a grandfather.  An enveloping warm blanket.  No matter where you are in your life frustrations, this love seems to power through on Christmas.

There is someone who wants to distract you from all of this.  By making you crazy in trying to keep up with everyone else.  By trying to make you think that it’s all about the gifts.  By keeping you super busy so you will not have time to concentrate on what the holiday is really about.

He is the prince of the air.  The enemy.  He wants to steal your Christmas.  He is the expert in distraction.  He wants you to concentrate on the gifts and the decorations.  The chaos.  The commercialized and prepackaged Christmas.  He wants you to fret about your gift not being good enough.  He wants you to doubt and worry.

See this is all in his plan.  If he can get you to concentrate on the present- you will miss the eternal.  And he does it with glitter, gold, garland, lace, cashmere, and trinkets.  Christmas is sensory overload.  And I believe that it is not by coincidence.

So what can you do to win?

Take back Christmas!  Realize that your struggle is not yours.  Focus on the beauty of this holiday.  Slow down and don’t get sucked in.  Make it about Christmas day.  The birth of our Savior.  His warmth.  His love!

I pray that your Christmas will be a wonderous time of peace and warmth with your family and friends.  May he cover you in His AMAZING blanket of love and grace!  Merry Christmas!

Copyright © 2013. Leading by Serving- Leadership is for Everyone!. All rights reserved.

Thanksgiving: Sending The Thief Away

Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays.  It seems like it’s the complete package for me.  My busy family taking the time to gather together.  Deep family traditions.  Great food and drink.  Watch the Lions lose (former Detroiter- can’t help it).  No gifts to mess things up.  Afternoon nap.  Fall weather.  It’s just a great package- isn’t it?

Rainbow turkey for Thanksgiving decoration

Seems like we can easily reflect on how we are blessed at Thanksgiving.  Surrounded by family and friends, the love just seems to flow on this holiday. As you reflect on the previous year, you forget the struggles and the pain of the past.  The disappointments of life.  The things that really matter seem to stand out.  They just seem to get larger on Thanksgiving.  Why don’t we feel like Thanksgiving every day?  What stops us from having the grateful heart and joyful spirit that covers us in waves at Thanksgiving?

I believe that one of the major culprits is comparison.  We just can’t seem to separate ourselves from it.

Remember when you were a kid and you had to break the candy bar in half?  There was always a big effort to make it the same.  Exactly the same.  Seem like we are born with a sense that things have to be fair and equal.

We are seeing a great rebirth of the fairness principle in our world today.  There is a greater awareness of inequity, I believe, due to the fixation of this concept in the media.  The reality is that things have never been fair.  And they will never be fair.  There have and will always be people with much and people in want.  There will always be people with more than you have, and less than you have.  And much of our efforts to “level the playing field” has resulted in bad consequences- much of which are the direct opposite of what we are trying to repair.

Comparison destroys.  When you see someone else with more, and you desire what they have, it will drive you crazy.  Like a thief in the night- it will steal your joy.  What you don’t see, as you compare, is the added responsibility that comes with the package of abundance.  You miss that the folks with a lot of stuff are generally not any happier than people who have little.  You covet and the anger from the inequity burns inside of you.

What to you get from it?  You get misery.  You get discontent.  You get bitterness.

At Thanksgiving it seems like, regardless of where we are on the scale, we seem to get a pure view of what we have.  The gifts and abundance that God has blessed us with.  Family.  A spouse.  A home.  A job.  Friends.  You really can see it and we smile.  We cry.  We give thanks to the Lord for his blessing and provision.

So, how do you keep the joy flowing once Thanksgiving is over?  I say dump comparison!  It’s a thief that wants to turn your heart to stone.  Be thankful every day for what you have.  Even in the midst of the struggle.  Even when things are tough.  Remember the way you feel on Thanksgiving.  And send the thief away!

What do you think?  What are some ways that you stay focused on the blessings?  Don’t be a stealth reader!  Click on “Leave a Comment” and tell me what you think!

Copyright © 2013. Leading by Serving- Leadership is for Everyone!. All rights reserved.

Do as I say- Not as I do!

I think we’ve all heard this expression.  Generally used to back peddle from a sticky situation with your children.  My question is:  Does it really work?

 CR- bromiliads

You can’t avoid learning from what you see.  Extreme example- The most amazing accomplishments that occur in life happens in the first two years .  In this very short period of time you learn the structure of life, “the lay of the land”, purely through observation.  You learn to laugh, cry, sleep, walk, touch, talk, right, wrong, hot, cold, more, less, fun, good, bad, etc.  This is primarily learned through minimal use of language.  Much of the learning is subtle and accomplished without realizing that you are learning.

As I have watched my children grow I can see some of my characteristics in them.  These include work ethic, education, and excellence.  These are things learned through observation.  They watched me work on the house in the yard and at work.  I made them participate in my work.  They learned what it meant to work hard.  They watched me go to night school to complete my degree.  They watched the way I would reject poor quality work.  These were taught not by lecture or instruction- they observed how it was important to me and it became important to them.

How do we teach the next generation of leaders?  Model the behavior that you seek.  Walk the walk and forget the talk.

Yes- this is a tall order.  We all slip sometimes.  We have things we struggle with.   Things that you really don’t want them to learn.  Just remember- they are watching you.  You don’t get a break on this one.  Go ahead and do the lectures and the instruction, but don’t forget the most powerful teaching tool.

Simply model the person that you want them to be.

What are some practical ways to model to lead?  What happens when you mess up?  Press comments and tell me what you think!

 

Copyright © 2013. Leading by Serving- Leadership is for Everyone!. All rights reserved.

Do The Work!

Years back, Kathy and I visited my Grandfather when he was sick in the hospital and his health was failing.  During this visit, my Grandfather was of good energy and he shared a quick snapshot of his life and some of his best life lessons.  One thing that he shared was that he believed that you really only have until a child is eight years old to mold them and teach them to behave and be a good and successful citizen.  After they reach eight years old, he believed, you now have a small person who has essentially figured out the world and changing them is very difficult.  Kathy and I were young when this conversation took place and we were in the process of raising our kids.  I am thankful for the advice.  While we were young, we took child raising very seriously.  We disciplined when it was necessary and taught our children to behave, get along with others and excel in their work.  We were not perfect but worked hard at it.  It’s not easy and you can get lazy sometimes.  But with children, you have to do the work!

Morning 004

I have often said that it would be great if they gave you an Owner’s Manual when you leave the hospital.  But instead you are handed this amazing miracle of life all wrapped up in a blanket and off you go!  You may have some babysitting experience and you will certainly get lots of advice from your family on what you’re “supposed to do”.  And… you are likely equipped with the life baggage of knowing what not to do.  And you are way young and just trying to process everything and figure it all out.

You absolutely want the best for your kids.  That is a given.  So what does that look like in the inexperienced parent’s mind?

  1. Provide For Your Family:  I work really hard to give my children the things that they need.  I spend much of my time on my career and work really hard to give them financial security.  Is that what they need or do they need you to spend more time with them?  Is money the best thing you can give your child?
  2. Be Their Friend:  I want to spend every minute that I can with my child and I keep them connected at my side at all times.  Is this providing an environment where you are teaching, leading and parenting or are they really just filling a need that you have?  Have you noticed serious separation anxiety when you leave your child with someone else?
  3. Wrestling Buddy:  I want my boy to be a man and be good at sports so I love to wrestle with him.  Is this really something he needs or is it something you need?  Are you raising up a little bully by getting him “toughened up”?
  4. No Daycare For Me:  I don’t want my child to be watched by anyone else but me.  I don’t trust others- I have had bad experiences in the past.  Is this really a good thing?  Are there social skills that your child may be missing by isolating them from other kids?  Do they know how to interact with other kids?  Can they share toys and play with other kids?
  5. He’s A Good Kid:  My child is a good kid so it’s OK to give him what he want.  If he wants chicken nuggets every night of the week that’s OK as long as he is being quiet and not misbehaving.  So who is eventually going to tell them no?  Who is going to erect boundaries?  Who is the boss?  Too tired is not an excuse here.
  6. We Are Always On The Move:  My kids love visiting others and being up late.  They are used to eating on the run.  They love the adventure!  Really, kids like structure.  They need a schedule.  They want to know the rules and what is expected.  They need sleep.  They need to be able to process what’s going on.  They need calm and normal.
  7. I Never Spank My Child:  My kids don’t need punishment.  They are different than the other kids.  Are they learning that there are consequences for their actions?  Although you may be against spanking, are you teaching your children that bad behavior can lead to big trouble in later years?

Raising children is hard.  It is a full time job.  You must fight the urge to get lazy.  Children are like clay when they are young.  Yes, I believe they are born with unique characteristics, but kids need leadership, structure, direction and boundaries.  They do not do well in chaos.  They need to figure out what the world is all about and chaos does not provide the framework for growth and understanding.

Have you ever considered what a child learns in the first two years?  They are like little sponges.  So what are they learning?  Are they learning that there is order to the world?   Are they learning about authority?  Are they learning about consequences?  Are they learning how to interact with other kids?

I know this.  Good parenting does not come easy.  When done correctly, it will be the most fulfilling project you will ever undertake.  It’s a long and tiring process.  But just remember- you have to do the work!

So what do you think?  Do you have any good parenting advice?  Please press comments and tell us your story!  

Copyright © 2013. Leading by Serving- Leadership is for Everyone!. All rights reserved.

Fight The Urge!

I was invited to join a group of friends, just men, for a cookout tomorrow.  I have decided to go.  This sounds like an easy decision on the surface.  But really it’s not that easy.

My inclination would be to stay home and relax.  See, I’ve had a difficult few weeks at work.  Traveling, problem solving, frustrations.  It’s been a real basket full of junk.  I have plenty of really good excuses to skip out on this one.

But I know that I really need to be there.  Not because they need me to be there.  There will be plenty of guys that will attend.  No, the reason I need to be there is me.

My flesh is telling me that I deserve to stay home and relax.  But I know that I need to stay in community.  I need to stay connected.  I need to fight the urge to isolate.

Men are generally experts at isolation and coming up with excuses to be alone.  But this is unhealthy and dangerous.  The enemy loves a man in isolation.  He knows he’s got us right where he wants us.  A wise lady told me “Oh that devil, he’s been around for a long time.  He’s got a big bag of tricks.  He’s knows exactly what works on you.” I think we forget that fact.  We think we will be fine by ourselves.  Independent.  Self-reliant.  American individualism.

So off I will go.  I know I will enjoy the company.  I know that I will be glad that I went.  It will be good for me.  Better than sitting on the couch with a book which would be my first choice.

Sometimes you need to fight the urge.  The urge telling you that you deserve something.  The urge that tells you that you come first.  The urge that tells you that you it’s ok to be alone.

Deep down we know what we need.  What is pure.  What is good.  What will build up.

Relationships take work so fight the urge to isolate.  Reach out and connect.  Someone has to make the effort.  Why not you?

Do you struggle some times staying connected?  Click on comments and tell me what you think!

Opposites Day

When my kids were young they would often play a game called Opposites Day.  During this particular day, whatever they said was actually the opposite of what is true.  This was really just a way of trying to catch the other sibling- kind of a trap.  Really just a kid’s game.  But I think that in actuality, it is more than just a game.

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This past Saturday I headed downtown to a ministry where Kathy and I have been serving for the past five or so years.  We get up early each Saturday and pick up surplus baked goods and head downtown to distribute food to the needy.  I can attest that it is tough some Saturdays to head downtown.  Yes, sleep and comfort are issues, but the work can be frustrating and unnerving.  We see some moments that make the whole thing question what you are doing.  The need is overwhelming and you can’t be unaffected by palpable feeling of hopelessness that hangs in the air.   We have also seen some pretty ugly situations.  Tension from actions viewed as unfair.  Deep neighborhood wounds.  Indescribable family dysfunction.  Crazy stories of pain that you struggle to untangle in your mind.  One thing is for sure.  You can’t keep score here.  It will drive you crazy.  You simply give and let God take care of the rest.

Amidst all of this, is the heart.  We have made great friends and have had the privilege of living our lives with them.  Each week we share and get updates.  Victories and failures.  We have seen it all.  Stories of success and stories of death.  Sometimes the reality is just too much to carry.  We try to help but we are not in it.  No matter how we try to step into their shoes we are not really with them.  We try to get there, but cultures and lives are so different that the gap really can’t be crossed.  So we meet in the middle each Saturday.  A circle between two circles and we do what we can.  Anything more is just cultural arrogance.  The two crazy assumptions are that we can truly understand what is going in the tough areas of the city while they can understand what it’s like to have a servant’s heart in suburban America.

This Saturday, I was leading a walk that we take each week through the neighborhood.  We carry bags of groceries and hand them out as the Lord leads us and we pray for the families and the neighborhood.  The groceries have always been the minor item.  When we approach folks in the neighborhood and start conversation and ask if they would like prayer, they will open up and share what’s going on in their lives.  This has lead to relationships as we return each week and visit with the same folks regularly.  This Saturday, I suggested that we visit a lady named Vera who lives on the outskirts of our walk, yet is always a treat.  Vera is a grandmother and takes care of her family although she has very modest means.  We knocked on her door and waited.  After a few minutes, she came out and her face lit up in delight.  We hadn’t made it to her house in a while, probably several months.  She quickly caught us up on what was happening with her and her family.  She pains for her family and their struggles.  You can feel her pain as she describes her family update.  Yet, she refuses to stay there.  She immediately turns the story to the day- this day.  She thanks the Lord for the blessing that this day brings.  She is thankful that we have visited her.  She radiates real love.  It makes you tingle.  Not the polite kind of stuff.  The deep love of the Father.

Vera loves to pray.  We generally pray as we make our way through the neighborhood but at Vera’s house we want her to pray.  So she offers and we smile and nod yes.  Vera breaks into a powerful prayer- thankful and a prayer of a grateful heart and worship.  None of this is the I want- I need kind of prayer.  This was a celebration of life.  Then she shares something new.  Vera breaks into song and sings a portion of her prayer to her Father.  The Spirit is thick.  He is here.  She finishes her prayer and a bird begins to sing.  Vera shares that God loves music.   I agree with her, sharing that even the birds sing to Him.

So what happened?  It was Opposites Day!  We set out to help bless others and instead we were blessed.  We left Vera and we all were visibly uplifted.  This is what we needed.  A refill.  A reminder that He is always there and He is always faithful.  The Bible says that he sings over us.  He knows every hair on your head.

Thank you for the song of our lives.  Thank you for the birds singing each morning.  Thank you for Vera and her heart for her Father and her family.

Remember to sing today.  No matter how hard it is.  It’s Opposites Day!

Have you ever had an Opposites Day?  Please click on comments and tell your story!              

What Your Wife Really Wants For Valentines Day!

Oh, yes! It’s that time again! Time for the red cards, chocolates, and roses. Valentines Day is a special time to tell your loved one that you really care. A time to celebrate love and romance. For some men, this can be a bit frightening. Getting just the right gift is really hard. You may need to have a sixth sense when it comes to women. I think most ladies don’t think much of the traditional gifts. She wants more than a box of chocolates or pretty flowers.

An array of Valentine's Day-connotated candy d...

She wants her boyfriend back!

Somewhere in the midst of building the family and the career, being a Dad and a Husband, and providing a safe and secure environment, the knight in shining armor gets a bit tarnished. Men will slip into the leader role at work and bring it home and miss the tenderness needed to continue to grow in their relationship with their wives. Wives want more than a family leader. They want friendship.  They want closeness.  They want to go deeper. They want your heart.

Remember when you were dating? What were the things that you liked to do together? This is what she wants. This is what she needs. Can’t remember very well? Let me help you a bit.

We Would Talk For Hours…. Remember those conversations? You would share your dreams, your goals, your passions. The time would fly by. You talked about your feelings, your fears, your frustrations, what you loved, what you hated. Fast forward. Now it’s often three word sentences. “Can you pick up some milk?” A quick OK, a nod, a grunt. Is this communicating? Not even close. Guys, she needs this. It’s knit in her being. She has to hear from you. She needs to talk things out. this is how she deals with stress. This is how she will stay glued to you. Stop communicating with her and she will loose the bond. Share your deep stuff with her. She needs it. I promise.

We Did Everything Together… It didn’t matter what you were doing, you loved to do it together. Even doing dishes was fun! Remember? Guys, you need look for opportunities to spend time with your wives. It’s really about getting creative and maybe about doing something you don’t really care to do. Go to the grocery store or head to the mall and go shopping with her! If you are not intentional, it won’t happen!

We Held Hands Everywhere We Went… How long has it been since you held your wife’s hand? Are you struggling getting physical with your wife? This can really vary by the particular woman, but many are starving for physical contact. This may or may not involve “going all the way”. I know some woman would love to get the back rub at night and have it stop at that! You know what she wants. She needs to feel your touch.

We Were Out On Dates Every Weekend… Are you planning date nights with you wife? This is a super important way for you to help her get away from the house and the kids and plug back into your relationship. These date nights don’t have to be spectacular events. The only requirement is that you are alone with her. No double dates. Just the two of you spending time together. Get the babysitter. I can tell you first hand that it will be the best money that you can spend for your relationship. Plan these dates nights! They will not magically happen by themselves.

We Would Laugh For Hours… Do you have fun with your wife or is your marriage based on the family “job”? Raising a family and keeping up with all the expectations is exhausting. Having fun can leave the house along with your energy. Don’t take everything so seriously. I can tell you the exhaustion of life can leave you analyzing every word that comes from your wife. Don’t take everything to heart. Learn to lighten up the situation. Remember how you used to make her laugh? You need to reconnect with this! It may save your marriage. Saying something insensitive is not the end of the world . Truth is, it’s most likely your pride that is the problem!

We Would Take Long Walks On The Beach… We’ll if you don’t live on the ocean, a trip around the block in the evening is a great second option. Steal a few minutes away. Talk about your day. Let her talk and you listen. If she’s been with the kids all day, she’s probably just about ready to explode. She needs some adult talk! Help her out.

We Would Surprise Each Other With Little Gifts… If she likes clothes, bring some home sometimes when it’s not her birthday or other event. She will be shocked and will ask you if you got hit really hard on the head! Plan a weekend and take her away. Send the kids to the in-laws and and do a weekend at home. Do something to surprise her. She needs the change and the romance.

I’m sure there are many more that you can think of. Things that made your relationship special. The stuff that brought you together. The bottom line is this: she still needs you to pursue her. She needs to feel desired. You know the wedding cake joke? Well this is the male version! Yes, she’s yours, but she needs more than safety and security. If not, she could have stayed at home with her Dad! She needs to reconnect with you and it takes time and intentionality. If you spent time on this like you work on your golf swing, your front lawn, or your fantasy football league I’m sure there would be no issues.

Reconnect with you sweetheart! She needs you!

What do you think? Are you being intentional about you relationship with you wife? Wake up call or full of you know what? Let me know by clicking on comments and giving me your view!