I have oft times said, “I’m tempted to listen Stevie Wonder and read Psalms All Day, Every Day.” And anyone that knows me well, knows that I find a lot of God’s guidance for my life in the lyrics of songs. Albeit, at times, from some seemingly obscure musicians and composers.
One of my all-time favorite songs is “As”, by Stevie Wonder. Hidden at the end of the song is a line that I have made part of my daily walk since I first heard it back in 1976.
“Change your words into truths and then change that truth into love”
When I first heard it I thought, what a brilliant concept; speaking truth was an act of love.
After all, isn’t being truthful, showing absolute respect for all that you touch, for all that you love? Like a lot of things in life; being Truthful, can often be a daunting and difficult task. So many times, we’re pulled towards the easy road of deceit and dishonesty. All the while convincing ourselves that a “Little White Lie” is the best. By not telling the truth we are somehow being kind or saving our loved one’s pain.
Sure, blurting out the truth in certain situations can hurt. Is it wise to walk into a room and tell your spouse, “Wow, you’re really putting on weight!”? Is it the truth? Does it hurt? Hurting is not born in Love.
However, being dishonest when your spouse asks if they are putting on weight, can bring its own hurt. Sometimes the question is a plea for help. Your answer is important in response to a request for loving, truthful advice. Do you hide behind the “White Lie” or, do you help?
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” –Ephesians 4:29
When Jesus said that we should “Love your neighbor as yourself.”Mark 12:31, wasn’t He telling us to put the needs of others above our needs, and to treat others as we want to be treated? Is honesty important to you? Do you want people to lie to you? Even small lies?
“For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.” –Romans 14:17
There is Truth in all Things. As Hope is the beginning of Faith and Giving is the root of Love; Truth is the Core of Righteousness.
Dishonesty, on the other hand, is the core of all Sin. From the Garden to today, deceit has been used to hurt and destroy loved ones, relationships, nations and cultures. So many times, dishonesty feels like it can be beneficial. It’s not. We are being deceived into believing that hiding truth, out of love, will increase happiness, wealth and relieve the stress of the world.
It is at those times, when temptation to deceive is strong, cloaked in benevolence, and seems the easy path; we must turn to God for guidance. Shunning all the rational logic rattling through our brain and listening to our Heart. It is there that we will hear that still, quiet voice, leading to Truth and Love; guiding us in the Kingdom of God.
“I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.” –John 14:16
We all use Metaphors every day. Mostly without thought. It’s much easier to draw a comparison; pointing to something that we all recognize. Fusing two unrelated objects together seems to make things easier. Does time fly? Is all the world really a stage? Is he as blind as a Bat? Is there really an 800 lb Gorilla in the room?
Have we let our belief in God become a Metaphor?
Sure, the bible is replete with metaphors. “We are the clay, and You our potter”, “I am the bread of life” and “God is my rock”, to name but a few. Reading scripture every day, Christians absorb metaphor after metaphor. Is it any wonder that we begin to speak in metaphors as well?
Describing a situation or a person metaphorically is one thing. I oft times think of metaphors like pictures with a thousand words, that bring quick understanding. However, describing our relationship with God, or our beliefs, as a comparison; leaves everything open to interpretation. After all, the intent of using a metaphor is to draw on someone else’s perception. What would it mean to describe, “Her eyes are as Blue as the Ocean”, to someone who has never seen an Ocean?
As a Christian, do you identify yourself as a “Bible Thumper”? A lot of non-believers profess they are one in the same. Are you a “Zealot”? A “Jesus Freak”? How about a “Holy Roller” or a “Shaker”. Most Christians I know wouldn’t self-identify as any of these. Still, theses perceptions cling to Christians. As we read scripture, our Lord Jesus would not allow others to define who he was, and we should follow his lead.
“Are you the king of the Jews?” asked Pilate. “You have said so,” Jesus replied. -Mark 15:2
As Christians, aren’t we taught to become more Christ like? Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did. -1 John 2:6
When you hear or read the name Jesus what comes to mind? Is it like hearing the name of a neighbor? Do you remember a face, or time spent together? Or, do you think of our Lord’s teachings? How He walked with unconditional love? The healing, the sacrifice?
By living his life, walking in God, and refusing to be defined by men; didn’t Jesus become a metaphor? If we are living as Jesus did, should we also shun man’s definitions; walking in God, and become a metaphor? Persistently stripping away all labels that we give ourselves; repelling all attempts by others to put us in a box, albeit by their definition.
Being filled with the Holy Spirit is a personal experience that no label can define. Rather than working to simplify and explain spiritual experiences with something as subjective as a metaphor. Shouldn’t we leave it to an individual experience? Everyone should experience God on their own, intimately, without preconceptions.
In no way am I saying to keep your relationship with Christ secret. Just the opposite. Shout it from the mountains. Shine your light, walk the walk. In LOVE! Show all, what it means to Love God, and to Love People. When someone asks how, or why, you are like you are? Point them to Jesus, the Word, and the Good News!
Let who you are, and what Christ has done for you, shine through. Refrain from being boxed in by metaphors and concepts that men will understand. They will always fall short: victim to preconceptions, and perceptions with man’s inability to grasp the totality of God and his Promise.
Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; His understanding is beyond measure. -Psalm 147:5
When someone asks you to help with a task. Or better yet, when you volunteer to help. Why are you doing it? Will it profit you? Do you ponder the benefits for you? Being busy doesn’t always mean that you are serving others. I’ve found that it helps if I ask myself, would I want someone to do this for me? Does it really help?
A Servants Heart
Bees are a wonderful example of a servant’s heart. All day long, Bees gather pollen, build hives and produce Honey; not just for themselves, but the entire hive, and for us. All so that the hive and their Queen will prosper and flourish. There’s never any disagreement over the proper flower to acquire pollen from. No fighting over the correct specifications of a honeycomb. And, certainly no dissention in the ranks about serving their Sovereign Queen.
Imagine the chaos if each Bee had their own agenda. “I’d rather build a seven-sided honeycomb, it would be much more stable.” “Let’s find red flowers instead of those ugly yellow things, they make me feel awkward.” “The Queen doesn’t understand the Workers; she is so haughty.” Nothing would get done and there would be NO honey.
Some say that “the Needs of the Many, outweigh the needs of the few”. Often using the synchronization of a Bee Hive or an Ant colony to justify the merits of a collective society like socialism. History has shown socialism doesn’t work. Sadly, in a true socialist system there is no thought for the individual. The “many”, set all the rules tasks and goals. Considering only the needs of the many, and not the individual, breeds discontent throughout. All the sacrifice falls on the shoulders of the individual; while all the benefits seem to only find their way to the leaders.
Inevitably, a greedy leader, with their minions, circumvent the system and seize control. Flipping the benevolent intent on its head. Resulting in “The Few benefiting (greatly), from the Many”. If so, why doesn’t the same thing happen in the Beehive, or the Ant Colony?
By design, individual Bees and Ants have a Servant’s Heart. By treating every individual as they want to be treated, the collective, takes care of itself. Every individual is taken care of; gone are all thought of self, and the perceived rewards of serving oneself. Instead, each Bee or Ant, treating every other individual as they want to be treated, the community thrives! They all get Honey, and so do we.
“Love your neighbor as yourself.” Mark 12:31
“Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” ROMANS 12:10
Brick by Brick
Back in the sixties, there was a young teenage boy in London, struggling to learn to play the guitar. At thirteen, he so wanted to be the next rock star like his idols in the United States. Every day he would practice on an old guitar that his Grandparents gave him. Oft times in front of a mirror, guitar in hand, thinking of that inevitable performance. If he could just capture the style of Scotty Moore, Elvis’ guitar player, or traverse the wonderful melodies and lyrics of Robert Johnson. Still, playing the songs from start to finish; without error, never happened. An extreme perfectionist; soon the young guitar player gave up. His dreams of grandeur crushed. Putting the guitar in the corner of his room and taking a job as a bricklayer. His loving Grandfather was a Master Bricklayer and had accepted the young teen as his new Apprentice.
Day after day, the young teen worked laying bricks, dutifully following his Grandad’s direction. Still, after a long day of building a wall, brick by brick, frustration would dribble in. Albeit, in the form of self-criticism from a perfectionist. The walls built by the teen were awkward, and misaligned. Not the precise, symmetrical walls built by Grandad. On the verge of giving up; again, the boy tearfully explained to his Grandfather the frustration with the walls, and how they were not the grand pieces of art he had envisioned while building them.
The master bricklayer, speaking as a loving Grandfather simply said… “Focus on the Brick, and the Wall will take care of itself.” With that, the boy began to build a new wall. Brick by Brick. Showering every drop of knowledge, love and care into each individual brick. Paying close attention to every detail, one brick at a time. The teen was soon amazed at the beauty of the walls he built.
After a few weeks of his new-found focus. One day, the teen was laying bricks when thoughts of that guitar in the corner of his room came rushing in. “That’s It!”, he yelled. “Focus on the Brick, and the Wall will take care of itself!”. He couldn’t wait to get home and focus on the notes, not the songs.
At the ripe old age of seventeen, this apprentice bricklayer, young Eric Clapton joined a rock band. And the rest, like they say, is History. Much like the bees and ants, Eric, focusing on the specific notes, the songs would take care of themselves.
Love Your Neighbor as Yourself
When we approach anything in life with a singular focus on us. That’s when the problems begin. Frustration, disappointment, envy, low self-worth and dissention. They are all born in our desires to please ourselves, to ensure that we FEEL good, and that others applaud our accomplishments.
With a Servant’s Heart, focused on loving others, we will find absolute joy. Gone are individuals vying for position and grandeur. Instead, by focusing on other’s needs, all are served.
Always remember God knows your heart; your motivation is crystal clear to Him. No matter how much you clarify and justify your actions. Be true to your heart, or as William Shakespeare wrote, “To Thine Own Self Be True”.
When asked what the two greatest commandments were, Jesus responded “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Luke 10:27. He didn’t say Love yourself above all others. “Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:43-45
For those that might not know, Eric Clapton accepted Christ Jesus as his Lord and Savior in 1987 while in rehab, a devout Christian every since. While he had a tumultuous life early on, filled with Drugs and Alcohol; including several tirades of vitriol, hatred and racism. Since 1987, he is forgiven, and has been a servant to others, continuing to play one note at a time.
“I had found a place to turn to… From that day until this, I have never failed to pray in the morning, on my knees, asking for help, and at night, to express gratitude for my life and, most of all, for my sobriety. I choose to kneel because I feel I need to humble myself when I pray, and with my ego, this is the most I can do.” – Eric Clapton
Here’s a wonderful song from Eric about lifting each other up.
We’ve all been there. On the playground full of rosy cheeked, snot nosed kids. Or, in the dark sports bar full of screaming fans. Inevitably, someone asks… “Whose side are You on?
What do you say? Do you answer honestly? Do you side with the majority? Oh, the alienation of being on the Other Side.
When you stand for your beliefs, as a child, a sports fan or in the board room. That’s when it starts!
Typically; the leader, the alpha or simply the Bully starts the process. “What do you mean? Are you nuts?” “How can you think that way?” “Our way is the Best!!”
Deep inside, you begin to question your beliefs. You think; “If all these people agree, I must be wrong.” “I don’t want to be left out.”
Humans are the only species on the Planet that recruits others to their beliefs.
Sadly, when you take a stand, support your team, reject their actions; or worse, argue your point. There’s always the volley of facts. Usually perceived and assumed. The leader and their throng will work to beat you down with their numbers and volumes of stats and data. Then, once they determine that you cannot be “flipped”. They turn on you. “You’re just Stupid.”“You don’t know what you’re talking about.” “Everyone knows our way is best!” Been there, done that.
Last week, I was doing some research for an article, when I fell head long into a lively debate. Suddenly, those playground memories and questions resurfaced. “Whose side are You on?” “How can you think like that?” “Join Our side!” Knowing full well that one side, or the other, was about to turn on me as One of Them. I went to God in Prayer.
While working to understand what the Bible said of Christ Jesus as a Man. My research led me to the question, “Was Jesus a Man filled with God?”or, “Was Jesus, God as a Man?”The more I dug into it online, it was clear that I had stumbled on an extremely Passionate debate. The Factions were very well formed, and the debate on both sides was convincing to say the least.
Every paper I read took a side. Most started with a statement like, “I’m not trying to take sides, nor convince you, but…” The online discussion was heated and voluminous. So, I turned to some friends. People that I trust completely to show me the light. All responded with robust explanations and scripture of their take on my questions.
There I was, more confused and full of questions than when I started. What’s new?
That’s what led me to seek help in prayer. All the answers I was getting were so contradictory, I clearly needed help. Who better than the subject of my questions, to shed light on my conundrum? All day long I worked to balance the variety of input. Praying that God would give me wisdom to discern all the scripture references. Each scripture seemed so relevant to my questions and supported both sides of my inquiry.
Still, no resolution. Every time I would contemplate an answer, it seemed ten more questions would pop up. All leading to more opinions and Scripture. By the end of the day, I was frazzled.
My brain hurt!
As I got ready for bed, my prayers intensified. Finally, I’d had enough. Telling God that I was worn out and it seemed that I wasn’t going to find resolution for this one. As I laid my head on the pillow, I began praying that if it was God’s will for me to move forward with the article; that He would provide a clear answer. The next thing I remember was the birds waking me up at 5 the next morning. The sun creeping through the curtains while an army of birds chirped, cooed, tweeted and serenaded the birth of a new day.
I rolled over, plopped a pillow over my head and tried to go back to sleep. Lying there in that early morning brain fog, I re-evaluated the day before, and began to pray again for resolution to my queries. Then it came. Two simple words that defined my questions, and completely resolved the dilemma.
“Was Jesus a Man filled with God?”or, “Was Jesus, God as a Man?”
Answered in two simple words…
God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” Exodus 3:14
“Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” John 8:58
Fickle. That’s the only word that comes to mind when I think of the weather, in Iowa in March. One day, you’re basking in a warm spring-like day. The next day, you’re digging out from under a blanket of wet snow.
That’s how I remember starting March 23, 1979. We were almost to April and the renewal of Spring. March Madness was behind us. So, the threat of another spring Blizzard was lessening every day. Still, it was warming up to the 40’s with about 2” of snow waiting to melt off.
My Bride, Kayleen and I were living in the house where I grew up, four years after being married in the Rose Garden at a local park. Kayleen was nine months into her first pregnancy. While everything around me seemed familiar; the house, the neighborhood, friends and neighbors. I’m sure for Kayleen, she wasn’t quite as comfortable. With all the unfamiliar surroundings, she was Huge. Carrying her first child, this beautiful, petite, girl must have felt like she tripled in size.
There we were. Not much more than two kids ourselves. Expecting our first born.
Gone were the early days of fear, euphoria and anticipation when we first found out that we were expecting. Now, the feeling of “can we just get this over?” seemed to dominate every day.
In the 70’s, in Iowa, things were radically different than today. The medical community was still steeped in the traditions of early, modern medicine. Pregnancy and Labor were a “Women’s” thing. There were no Ultrasounds to herald whether it was a Boy or a Girl. Husbands were typically regulated to stand on the side-lines for nine months while their wives prepared the “Nest”. All Husbands had to do was wait outside of the labor room and pass out cigars when the cries of a newborn were heard. Fortunately, Kayleen and I were following my sister, Martha, and husband Gene, who had just had their first born a year earlier.
They had found a wonderful Hospital in the small city where we all grew up. For the 70’s, the Hospital was very progressive. And offered “Natural” child birth, not common for hospitals at the time. Especially in Iowa.
Soon after finding out Kayleen and I were expecting our first-born, we enrolled in the Lamaze program at the hospital. Lamaze was a radical change for the birthing process. Not just for Women, but for Men as well. Lamaze included a series of classes to help pregnant women understand how to cope with pain in ways that would ease labor, and promote comfort, including relaxation techniques, breathing, movement and massage. A vital part of the technique was enlisting the Men as coaches.
Going through the classes with Kayleen, I truly learned a lot. Most of the method was designed to help women manage the pain of birth. Throughout my life, I’ve called on those lessons frequently and know them to be very effective.
Here we were. Nine months into breathing exercises and belly rubs, still petrified. As frightened as I was at the prospect of being a Father, I can only imagine what Kayleen was going through; not only with becoming a Mother, but the expected pain that had been so articulately defined in those classes. There was no turning back.
Two weeks earlier, on a frigid, 12° night, complete with a new sheet of thin Ice on the roads. We had the legendary “False Alarm”. Kayleen was sure that this was it! So, we piled into the car and headed for the hospital. The trip that would normally take 30-40 minutes, seemed to last forever on this night. Both us full of anxiety and anticipation, sliding to the hospital as fast and as slow as possible. After a few hours of tests, prodding and consoling we were sent home. The good thing about “false alarms” is the preparation they provide for the real thing.
This day started like most. The wondering if this was it. Trying to keep busy and focused, with the metaphoric elephant in the room. It was Friday though. On the news they’d mentioned that the record high was 86°. Fickle!
Today, the forecast was for light rain. No Snow until later in the night. Typical cloudy grey Iowa morning. Little did I know; our world was about change forever, in a wondrous way.
Not sure if I went to work that day, nevertheless I’m certain Kay was busy picking stuff up in the house. A habit that I would come to recognize as “Nesting” over the years. Sometime around eight that night, Kay exclaimed “This is really it”. Thanks to the “false alarm” a few weeks prior, there was little anxiety or chaos. Just a methodical march to the car and then the hospital.
Arriving at the hospital, we felt like pros and even recognized some faces from our earlier trip. The staff quickly confirmed that this was indeed it!
Off to the delivery room. Because of the new Lamaze practice, the room was designed to start as a regular patient room and when needed, convert to the birthing room for delivery, then back to normal. Cool. Everything was hectic for the first couple of hours. I could see the fear and uncertainty in Kay’s eyes and couldn’t seem to calm her down.
You know that feeling you get sometimes when a big change is coming. Not sure if it will be good or bad? A storm brewing kind of feeling. That’s how I was feeling when I heard it. All the chatter and noisy chaos had stopped instantly. Then I heard it through the stark silence. Thud, thud, thud. Thinking about it now makes me think of the T. Rex in Jurassic Park. Thud, thud, thud. Getting louder and quicker each time.
The door to our room bursts open with a shout of “Is this where we’re having a Baby!” There in the doorway was our Night Nurse. An almost 6-foot-tall, rotund, 50’ish nurse in an impeccably detailed uniform. She was shouting orders to everyone in the room, including Kay and me. “Move This!”, “Sit Here!”, “that Can’t Be In Here!”
I took one look at Kay and saw the fear in her eyes and could only imagine how I looked to her. Calm was not the mood that night.
Together, Kay and I spent the night in anxious anticipation. Utilizing all my new skills from Lamaze, I worked to make Kay as comfortable as possible. Belly rubs, Ice chips and the monotonous breathing sessions. Our systematic practice of Lamaze was oft interrupted by a loud “What’s Going On In Here!?” Or, “Is That Baby Here Yet!?” from our bellicose night nurse. We have since nicknamed her the “Army Nurse”, or “Nurse Ratchet”. In looking back, I’m sure she was a sweetheart. Anyone that devotes their life in the service of others, usually has a heart of Gold.
For us two Doe-Eyed, soon to be parents, our nurse was both an extreme disciplinarian and our comic relief. Kay never did relax, and more importantly, never dilated. The hours and minutes ticked by sluggishly. What was only a few hours, seemed like an eternity with us both huddled in a dark, cold hospital room. Whispering to each other as if anyone could hear of us over the droning sounds of beeps and PA announcements of a Hospital. Like clockwork, every Hour on the Hour, the “Army Nurse” would burst in with some exclamation, ensuring Kay would stay sufficiently anxious.
Around 7 that morning, the door opened… flooding the room with warm sunshine. It seemed that I could hear a choir and I’m sure I even saw a few white doves. Through it all, an angel appeared in the form of our morning nurse. Immersed in a golden glow, dressed in white from head to toe, and not saying a word. Instantly, Kay and I knew everything was going to be fine. Almost whispering, our Angel floated around the room checking everything out while accessing Kay’s condition in-depth.
Holding Kay’s hand to calm her down, the Angel looked at me and with a calm, loving voice said, “You need to leave now”. Without question, I gave Kay a kiss and left.
As Kay tells the story, our Angel helped her out of bed and into a warm shower. Kay often says she was glad that no one else saw the sight of a nine month, very pregnant, naked lady in the shower. Disconcerting or not, the shower did the trick. What seemed almost instantly, the room was a buzz with nurses, technicians and Doctors. The room was quickly converted to a birthing room and at 9:01 a.m. our wonderful Son, Jason Alan made his entrance.
They had brought me back into the room and were very attentive to make sure I was by Kay’s side during the delivery. For a twenty-four-year-old, soon to be Dad, I was in awe. Never did I think something as clinical as childbirth, could be such a miraculous experience. They coached me and held my hands while I nervously cut the umbilical cord, formally making Jason an individual. An experience that will always be one of my best memories.
Well, there we were, New Parents. Now what?
Kay and I spent the next few years in what I can only describe as euphoria. The three Musketeers, Kayleen, Jason and me. Inseparable. Jason was always a happy and inquisitive baby. Everyone he met loved him and fawned over him insatiably.
While we were really struggling financially in a very tough economy, I always remember those days as a very joyous time filled with love and the new adventure of becoming a family.
Today, Jason celebrates his 39th birthday. Yesterday in his adopted Australia. A Husband and Father of two remarkable boys. Kayleen and I are so proud of the Man he has become. Watching him grow as a husband and father over the years has brought back so many wonderful memories of those first days as Parents.
Jason will always have that special place as our “first born”. For a while, an only child. I will always cherish my early times with Jason. We did so many firsts together.
An early Soccer star that we nicknamed “Thunder Thighs”, a talented, dependable baseball player that hit the ball every time he stepped up to the plate. Fortunately, I had the pleasure of coaching him in both, and wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. Like I always tell all our kids. “I learned more from you, than I ever taught you”.
We also share a strong love for Music. Albeit, Jason would eventually venture into the uncharted waters of Guns & Roses and Metallica, he truly, always loved “good music”. As did all our family. Some of our best times together were going to concerts. While most families were off to Disneyland, we would stand in the rain all day to see Ringo. Or, climb to the top of the Metro Dome, sitting in “nose bleed” seats watching McCartney through binoculars.
As the “first-born”, Jason and I shared a lot of special memories, just the two of us. With music, it always centered around concerts with phenomenal guitarist. The two of us were fortunate to see artists like Stephen Stills in small intimate venues. Probably, my favorite was the night Jason and I went to see Eric Clapton. Prior to his resurgence with “Tears in Heaven” and the “Un-Plugged” album, Clapton was touring in relatively small venues, instead of the arenas he would soon be filling nightly.
It was around this time that I first heard Clapton’s song “My Father’s Eyes”. One of my all-time favorites. A new father, Clapton wrote about the uncertainty of the road ahead as a father. Sadly, this was his lyrical introduction to his son Conor, who’s tragic death was immortalized by Eric in the song “Tears In Heaven”.
My Father’s Eyes…
“Where do I find the words to say? How do I teach him? What do we play? Bit by bit, I´ve realized That´s when I need them, That´s when I need my father´s eyes.”
Every time I hear this song, I think of Jason. Remembering the anxious anticipation of being a first-time father. Like Clapton, I turned it all over to our Heavenly Father and He continues to watch over and Bless us all.
Happy Birthday Jason! All Our Love, All Ways! Mom & Dad
“My Father’s Eyes” by Eric Clapton PLEASE CLICK BELOW TO LISTEN
Sadly, our world has learned to answer almost everything with a question.
In my (too) many years in cooperate life, I can’t begin to tell you how many times during seminar after seminar, I was taught to NOT answer a question directly. Instead, the “rule of thumb” was to answer a question with a question. We all experience it every day; What makes you think that?”, “What does that mean to you?” or the obligatory “Why do you ask?”. Perfectly crafted responses to open the conversation up by not being answerable by a simple yes or no. More importantly, purposely asked to give time to gather thoughts for the unavoidable response. Is that manipulation or just smart? How does that make you feel?
Eventually, it seems that the practice of “question everything” seeps into our sub-conscience thinking and we question every step and action of our life.
If you’re like me, all the questions spinning around in my head are perplexing. So much so, it seems that my thought process is more akin to a Sherlock Holmes mystery, than a straightforward path through life. If life is truly the culmination of all of choices made in life. Aren’t the decisions made everyday extremely important and impactful? Yes!
One of my favorite lessons during my corporate years was when I learned that the people who ran businesses were sometimes driven by a separate set of rules. In my experience, the bulk of people working in middle-management of those corporations were motivated by similar things. Make ME look good, make MY job easier or make ME more money. The leaders, or at least the successful ones, were motivated to “reduce costs” and “streamline efficiencies”. On the surface, both practices seem cold and calculated. Ultimately, they were all about the people working for the corporation. Two simple practices that would grow the company, providing better wages, more jobs and improving the lives or their employees.
I oft watched as the CEO’s, Presidents and leaders, of some very large corporations, concentrated on only those two questions for anything that would cross their desk. Simultaneously, the throngs of their middle-managers scurried around asking question after question, thinking they were in control, and ALL powerful. So many times, I would hear the leaders ask, “Why can’t my team get focused?”. Through it all I learned that questions can be necessary, and often a requirement for understanding. However, for the most part, too many (vague) questions create chaos and confusion. Thankfully, I was blessed to work with several very decisive leaders that were not bogged down by questions.
Think of being decisive in your life. Why do you think most of us aren’t very decisive? Oh, there I go again with the questions…
Basically, I believe it is very similar to those leaders and their managers. Most middle-managers I’ve had the pleasure to work with were SO busy, their world was a whirlwind. Being busy made them feel like they were accomplishing a lot. It always seemed to me that their entire corporate life was to create more questions. If you ponder that thought, you’ll quickly see that it was all about SELF preservation.
On the other hand, the successful CEO’s, Presidents and leaders that I knew, were pretty laid back, calm and stress free. Their days were filled with questions as well. Albeit, truly impactful. Each response carried the weight of responsibility for the lives and well being of thousands. So how could those leaders maintain that laid back, calm and stress-free lifestyle? Focus.
Having presented a lot of questions to these leaders, I soon saw a trend. For every query, they would simply distill their decisions down to the two simple questions. Will this “reduce costs” or “streamline efficiencies”? If the answer was no. The consideration was over. If the answer to either question was yes. The answer of how they would accomplish one of the two points would light the path for the next steps.
Recently, my wife and I have been faced with some major life changing decisions. Something, quite frankly, we haven’t experienced for a while. The choices we make will impact others, and will set new paths in our lives. Like any major decision in life, all the questions pop up, one after another. Most are about the unknown. “What if… This and That?” Uncertainty of the future can be daunting.
We both have been taking our concerns to God through prayer. Practically non-stop. This morning, I woke up before the sunrise, tossing and turning. Waking up, there was a single word burned into my morning consciousness. Something I have come to know as God’s answer to prayer. The word? “Puzzled?”.
There I was, no Sunshine breaking through, toasty under my covers, on a brisk 40°+ morning. I really didn’t want to get out of bed. Yet, all I could think about was PUZZLED? Sleep was just not happening. At the same time, there was a song running through my head that I couldn’t stop. Usually, I can hit the “next” button on the playlist in my head and change songs instantly. Not today!
Then, understanding that God does have a sense of humor, I started thinking how much this was like a frigid Iowa School day, when Mom would work to roust me out of bed. There I was anticipating the “Divine Chuckle” that usually accompanied the prodding for me to get up. Then it hit me. The word and the Song! “Puzzled?” followed by the name of the song… “Love is the Answer”. “Ha! You’re funny” I acclaimed as I reluctantly rolled out of bed and found my keyboard.
I had my focus. Just like those CEO’s and leaders, God gave me the focus to distill all the questions that my wife and I were facing.
As every question pops up, the answer needs to either proclaim our love for God. Or, spread God’s love to others. Simple. Every question that can’t be resolved through Love, are no longer considered. Hallelujah!
“For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” -2 Timothy 1:7
Puzzled + Love = Answers
“Love is the Answer” by Rumor PLEASE CLICK BELOW to Listen:
“In the confrontation between the Stream and the Rock, the Stream ALWAYS Wins… Not through strength, but through Persistence.” -H. Jackson Brown Jr.
In this frenzied world, I often get the impression most of us wish life was effortless. If only we could accomplish all our dreams. Without problems, barriers and disappointment. Really? Think how boring that would be.
Making it through all the problems and barriers thrown at us while persevering, fortifies us with a deep sense of accomplishment. At the same time, it builds our character, and prepares us for more barriers and tough times.
So, the next time you are overwhelmed with trouble or hard times, be thankful, and know that you are getting stronger!
Think of how our bodies were created to deal with stress and injury. The first time you grab a shovel and head to the backyard for some Gardening. Typically, what happens? Blisters! Just saying the word brings pain. You work hard all day long to provide some food or beauty, and what’s the result? Your hands and knees are covered in those bubbles just under your skin. If one pops, you know the pain that follows. In addition to the blisters, the muscle throughout your body feels like you just finished a game of Football, and you were the Football. Why?
You’ve changed your routine and started using your hands and body for physical labor. Your body is simply protecting you from doing major damage. While your blisters and muscle slow you down for healing, your body is recreating itself to endure your new activities in the Garden. God didn’t promise that there would never be pain. Instead, God designed our bodies to become what we need them to be, to handle the task at hand. The circumstances of our lives are no different. Sure, there are times when we feel like we can’t take one more step; that there is no clear path to a good ending. Like the blisters, it hurts. Sometimes the pain feels unbearable.
God knows your pain. Like any loving Father, He would do anything to eliminate your agony. Akin to how our body uses pain to slow us down while it recreates stronger, more resilient, skin and muscle. So too has God created us to become stronger and more resistant through tough times.
Story after story in the Bible depicts how the weakest were favored, blessed and honed by God. Often through extreme trials. At the end, all were given everything they needed to persevere.
Reading the plight of the Israelites during their four hundred, thirty years as slaves to the Egyptians. I oft wondered, how could that be? After all these were Gods Chosen People. Imagine, an entire culture enslaved as “sub-human”, manual labors for over four hundred years. Every dirty, sweaty, job too lowly for the oppressors, forced on the Israelites. Was God punishing them?
Understanding how God created our bodies to get stronger in adversity, it follows that the same regeneration was happening to the Israelites. After over four hundred years of toil and hard work, what shape do you think the Israelites were in? I’m confident that they weren’t starving, as that would not serve their master’s needs. Four hundred years of getting stronger every day, physically and spiritually. Is it no wonder that they became conquerors? Just as God will provide What you need, When you need it, He refined the Israelites, body and soul for the mission ahead. The vision of scraggly, starving slaves just doesn’t seem to fit God’s purpose for His people.
We all have those times when we are overwhelmed with trouble or hard times. Experience has taught me, that it is at those times, God is making me stronger and more resilient. Physically and spiritually. Sometimes I need new tools to move on, other times I just need to slow down. Whatever the need, I know God has a plan, and will provide all that is needed. When trouble comes, be thankful, not fretful. God is making you better.
Have faith in God; listening for His still, quiet voice for direction, and Persevere!
“Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” -James 1:4
“Carry On” by Badfinger PLEASE CLICK BELOW to Listen: