Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Walk...

I was on my daily (OK--sheer honesty here. ALMOST daily) walk for a mile through my neighborhood. Della and I were at a brisk pace when activity at an alcohol-serving establishment caught our attention. A middle-aged man staggered to his car, obviously very incapacitated. A woman called from the doorway, "You aren't going to try to drive, are you?" After a try or two to pick up papers, he completely lost his balance and fell to the ground, all the while insisting on his capacity to handle himself.

We stood and stared for a few moments, hoping by our notice to urge some heavy duty intervention. Eventually a couple of fellow customers/servers stood by his vehicles and tried to get his car keys. We completed that leg of our walk, and the drama was still ongoing. I was relieved in the morning to see his vehicle was still there.

I can't quit thinking about that, though. Why did they keep serving him? Why did no one refuse to be a part of his foolish journey? Why did anyone enable him to go so far down the trail of destruction that tragedy was the next logical step?

Because of my personal choice for absolute abstinence, I rarely am a spectator to unwise decisions in alcohol consumption. But I see many other people making relational/financial/spiritual decisions that are just as debilitating, just as certain to end up in heartbreak---and no one intervenes until tragedy is the next step, if then. Why?

I think it's because of deep-seated cowardice or apathy--refusal to risk someone's anger or our inconvenience. I think that when it comes right down to it, many of us really prefer to tell ourselves we have no responsibility, pretending it is love and wise to "mind our own business."

There's a psychological word for that argument. Here it is: BALONEY.

Just sayin'.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

I'm Still Laughing!

We have a "Win Wall" at our church, a place where we have 12 8x10 pictures hanging to show positive things in life, and we change them up whenever something new and cool happens. The last set of pictures hanging there had a beautiful one of Bruce Oberlin, one of our staff members, standing there with a huge cheesy grin on his face, arm around his beautiful daughter Meghan. The place they had chosen for the picture was our vision statement wall, that says "Making a successful pass of a vibrant faith."

Hundreds of adults had looked at the picture and said or thought, "Awwww....isn't that sweet?" it took an alert teen to show us that where Bruce and Meghan were positioned covered up pretty vital letters in the wall mural. As clear as it could possibly be, Bruce was smiling, framed by the words, "Making a ass".

I laughed till I cried when I first saw it. Thought of it again this morning, and am still wiping tears.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Dad's coming!

My dad is coming to our house to stay till Friday. I kinda feel like I hit the lottery. :-) Dad is 90 years old, a widower living in the home he and my mother shared in a little retirement place in Sugarcreek. So obviously, it's not that it's a long trip--it's just that my dad really loves his life. He runs around to the neighbors' homes, trying to make sure none of "old folks" (most younger than him) are in need. He is part of a small group that thrives on their weekly fellowship and Bible Study. He grades papers for prisoners, serves as an honorary grandfather to rock babies and play with toddlers in the nursery at his church each week, and is an "amen'er" for the pastor in the weekly worship services. He disciples a young man who is a new believer. Dad also goes to every ball game for my niece and nephews who live near him that he can. When he gets an opportunity to visit a restaurant or store in the area, he automatically becomes the "host" there, making sure everyone feels at home, is appreciated and loved.

Obviously, that information leads to two conclusions: First, even though he lives alone, he is a huge contributer to life in his community, and he feels a responsibility. When he is gone, he is missed. And second, when Dad arrives at my house, the atmosphere is charged with his character. He loves to laugh and tell stories. Even ones we have heard 100 times are fun to hear again. He is an encourager. In the next three days, I will hear multiple times what a great woman I am, how beautiful my family is, what a great job we are all doing with our children and the grandkids. Dad will tell me what a great husband I have. He will tell me how much he still loves my mother, and how great it will be when we are all together again. He will ask me about my work, he will watch ballgames with Charlie and intersperse them with questions about Charlie's church and concerns. Though he has aches and pains and days of missing Mom terribly, he won't spend a second dumping those burdens out. Unless we ask, he won't spend much time talking about HIS life--mostly investing in ours. When we ask about what's going on for him, it will be mostly gratitude. Any simple meal I fix will be delicious. Oh, yes--we will pray together at least a dozen times, often spontaneously as some need or blessing comes to mind.

Can't wait till he gets here. So many people tell me I look like my Dad. I want to BE like my Dad. That's my goal.

You want him to come to your house? The line forms to the right--and it is
really long. :-) Thanks, Dad.

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Big MO

Momentum is a funny thing.

You have to have it for impact and joy--when you have it, everything you do has a touch of magic, whether the thing in itself is spectacular or not; when you don't have it, you can be superb, but nothing rings the bell. When you don't have momentum, you will lose to someone not nearly as skilled or capable as you; when you have momentum, almost every ball drops through the hoop. Momentum is what makes progress possible, so it is indispensable for any success.

Teams need momentum, and individuals need momentum. Tiger Woods is a public example of incredible momentum and then NO momentum. Currently it seems he can't even buy a good game. What happened to his "Big MO" is a lesson to us. Does he have physical problems? Apparently so. But it doesn't take a psychological genius to figure out his problem is bigger that that. The guy whose touch turned everything to gold lost his Midas touch when a series of moral lapses became public. Sponsors dropped him, his wife dropped him, and the magic Mo was gone. When you are pushing a heavy weight, as long as you keep moving, the momentum will help you pick up speed. But if you stop, the momentum is gone, and it will take heroic effort to get moving again. Tiger is discovering that.

Perhaps you have discovered that as well. In you marriage, your job, your church. It may be that once you had all the momentum in the world--just to be with each other was magic. Everything you tried seemed to work. But now, things are so hard. What used to be joyful and productive is now hard work with marginal results. You seem to have hit a wall and are at a dead stop, or near it. What happens now?

I have discovered in my own life and leadership, the first thing is to own what's happening. Talk about it, get it out. But don't panic. Dan Reiland, writing to a pastor trying to regain momentum says: "There is a significant difference between urgency and panic. At no time do you want to create a sense of panic, but always a sense of urgency. Panic comes from the reactionary leadership of facing problems without solutions. Urgency comes from passion-filled leaders who believe in a cause with so much conviction that there can be no delay in carrying out that mission."

Recover a sense of urgency, and take corrective action wherever you know you have dropped the ball. Have the heart to do the hard things. And, I have found that since we are all spiritual beings, created for a close connection with the One who made us, generally lost momentum has something to do with internal issues--maybe disobedience or neglect of what's most important. So, the most urgent thing is to prioritize the Momentum Maker, the Force behind it all, and follow to the letter what He says. You can get the Big Mo back, and make incredible progress.

God says,"I am going to do something new. It is already happening. Don't you recognize it?" (Isaiah 43:19) Now, THAT'S what I'm talking about.

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Great Exchange

She is 80 years old. Her very presence sucks all the arrogance out of the room as she stands, absolutely regal in her utter humility. Overwhelmed by the standing ovation from the more than 10,000 people jumping to their feet in acknowledgement of the presence of greatness, she slips to the floor and kneels, with her face pressed to the ground. She is Mama Maggie Gobran.

Mama Maggie led a comfortable life in Cairo as an educated woman for many years. A Coptic Christian from a prominent Egyptian family, she taught computer science and lectured at Cairo University. But, following a call from God, she dedicated her life to serving the poorest of the poor in an area called Garbage City. This is not like anything WE do here. I have been in Garbage City--the stench, the situation is overwhelming. There children are born, live, eat, sleep, die, and scavenge among the piles and piles of refuse and rotting trash, without ever leaving that place. She has served and loved there in Jesus' name for the last 20 years. A Nobel Peace Prize nominee this year, Mama Maggie's humble wisdom overwhelmed me.

One piece of wisdom from her life shared at the Leadership Summit today was one I have learned, too. She said, "When we do something to help the poor have a better life, they help us become better people." Wow. That is as true as anything I have ever heard. It's a great exchange. I have been poor before, and have been on the receiving end of help. I will always be grateful to those who reached out to make my life better. But, for some time now, I have been on the giving end of things. Tomorrow I get the privilege of trying to help the lives of some folks in our community get better as our church has a massive LEAP giveaway. But here's what I already know. Mama Maggie is right. When the day is over, and nothing is left but some trash, a few lost socks, sore feet and aching muscles, I will be a better person. I will have received so much more than the folks I came to help. It's a great exchange, and I definitely get the better gift.

Friday, August 5, 2011

A Smokin' Hot Prayer Part 2--What He Actually Said

Charllie texted me a few minutes ago. He's like a cow kneedeep in clover at the Hall of Fame Enshrinees dinner. He has met Jim Nance, Deoin Sanders, Chris Berman, Willy Davis, Shannon Sharpe, Marshall Faulk, Richard Dent. So, you know he's feelin' no pain.

He previewed his 2 minute prayer, including a moment of silence at the beginning, for me. In my humble opinion, he said alot worth saying in a very short time. Here's the text of his contribution this evening.

Three days ago a member of the NFL family, Bubba Smith,passed away. Please join me in a moment of silent prayer for his family and friends.

Dear God,

We are gathered here this evening to celebrate the accomplishments of these enshrinees. We thank you for the physical health and strength with which You have blessed them, enabling them to achieve this high level of recognition. Those accomplishments have brought satisfaction to each athlete, and a lot of enjoyment to the crowds and fans.

You have helped develop courage, boldness and passion within them that has led them to overcome difficulties and challenges in life and on the field of play. Those traits have brought success to each of these men, and tomorrow they will stand before fans, colleagues, coaches, friends and families as they are welcomed into the place of highest honor for any NFL player or contributor….. the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

I pray that they will humbly accept that recognition, remembering that You have endowed them with the abilities to achieve that honor. And, that You will now help them focus on this new chapter of their lives and use those same character traits to build a legacy of integrity and honor during the remainder of their lives, that they might one day enter Your Hall of Fame.

They have played like champions on the athletic field...may You help them now play like champions on the field of life, with marriage, family, and friends.

I ask this all in the strong name of Jesus Christ.


Thursday, August 4, 2011

A Smokin' Hot Prayer

So, most of you have seen the video that went viral of the southern Baptist preacher “praying”, or something like that, at a Sunday afternoon NASCAR race a few weeks ago. ( He was thanking God for high-powered fuel and a smokin’ hot wife, among other things. My husband Charlie has been asked to offer the prayer at the NFL Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinee’s Dinner this Friday night, so you can imagine he has gotten quite a few great suggestions and truly funny lines he could deliver for his own memorable moment. I’ve given some thought to what he should say, too. Just for the sheer sake of truth in advertising, I have advised him to not make any comments about his “smokin’ hot wife.”

While I thought the prayer from the deep south brother was amusing and it didn’t offend me, my suggestions are a little different. Call me a stick in the mud, but I can’t get past the fact that our prayers are for God’s ears primarily, not for entertainment for the crowds OR a preaching opportunity for the pray-er. Realizing that Charlie is not permitted to say anything “sectarian”, and having great faith in God’s ability to hear the heart intents of a sincere prayer, maybe a great prayer would:
• Thank God for physical health and skill that brings satisfaction to the athlete and enjoyment to the crowds;
• Thank God for the hours of enjoyment and conversation all the fans have shared through the careers of these men;
• Ask God to help every honoree and guest focus on the most significant legacy and reason for fame, a life of integrity and honor.

And I am pretty sure a really great prayer would be short, not long enough for minds to wander, short enough to shock everyone that a long-winded preacher didn’t grab the bully pulpit to push an agenda of some kind. Jesus’ powerful prayer in front of a crowd essentially said, “Father, I thank you that You hear me. Now bring glory to yourself through me.” If Charlie’s prayer lacks humor and tweetable quotes , but has that kind of simplicity, humility, and faith, I have a feeling His Father will hear and get glory for Himself.

Boogity Boogity Boogity. I’m done.