I recently moved into an apartment but have lived in a house with a front yard and a back yard for many years.  I took pride in what my lawn looked like.  I would mow, trim, fertilize and water with incredible discipline.  Because of the hard work, each year the family could enjoy the plush green grass that felt so soft and comfortable on our bare feet…well, at least the front yard was that way!  The back yard was a different story.

The backyard is the area no one sees.  It is hidden behind a fence, keeping the weeds and the yellow spots hidden from the “lawn gockers”.  The front yard got mowed twice a week, the back once a week and sometimes one every two weeks.  The back never received frequent watering and only received fertilizer when there was some left over from the front.  Why does the backyard need to look good?  No one sees it!!!

Unfortunately, many of us treat our character the same way.  We keep the visible well-groomed, watered and fertilized.  Besides that is what people see.  We take pride in maintaining the appearance of a very disciplined manicured life so that others can look and applaud.

However, character goes beyond the visible (or the front yard).  I know I have character defects that I don’t want others to see.  So, I hid them and work harder on the ones I want everyone to see.  Character is truly defined by how well you maintain the parts that no one sees.  Think about it, you can be a great employee in the office, but be a terrible husband or father; you can be a great husband but struggle with lust and pornography; you could be a great business person but be terrible with your personal finances.

Character development begins in the backyard.  It begins with the areas that no one sees.  Working on unseen character defects is hard and it takes time.  After all, these areas have been overlooked for so long and weeds take time to get rid of.  The good news is with a little discipline and attention the backyard will look great and so will our character.

What does your back yard look like?

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“You Gotta Believe”.  That was the phrase that my high school baseball team had plastered everywhere.  It was on our bags, painted on the locker room wall and on the letter head used by the head coach.  Believing is very important but it wasn’t enough to win a state championship (even though we had the highest quality of talent our high school had ever seen).  We need more than belief, we needed “trust”. Many people believe but few move into the arena of trusting.  Trusting is placing your confidence in someone or something else.  Trust is the action point of belief.

Not long ago, I believed in God and his provision, direction, and wisdom.  I believed, as long as things went well for me I was in the center of His will for my life.  Then something happened.  Things seemed to start to turn south for me.  My visual picture of the future started to become scarred and torn.  Things were not turning out like I had hoped or planned.  Was belief enough?  Or was there something I was missing?  That is when my belief collidated with the reality of trust.

I believed God had great things planned for me but I had never placed my trust in him to do those things for me.  Because of my circumstances, I needed more than a belief.  I needed to learn how to trust God.  I did everything I could in my own power to no avail.  I was forced to trust God.  Trust Him for my provisions, trust Him for my security, trust Him for peace, trust Him for significance and trust Him with my future.  The journey has not been easy, but is one that has taught me a valuable lesson.  He has met my needs, He has given my security, He has taught me to trust Him.  While I wish I had a reserve tank filled with things that I can dip into if times get tough, I have learned to trust God every single day.

My friend Barbara King put it this way, “I believe there is a bridge across the royal gorge, I can see it. but do I trust that it is good enough for me to cross over?  Even the devil believes and trembles over the name of Jesus, But I trust him with my everything. Believing is the not same as trusting.”  I have believed.  But now, my belief is filled with trust.  Do you see the bridge God has planned for you and do you trust Him enough to start walking?

risk blocksWhy is it so hard for people to share their struggles?  Even with our closest of friends we share 90% of our life but we hold back that last 10%.  Why?  Is the risk too large?  And, what makes it a risk?  What are we risking anyway?

The word “risk” means “exposure to the chance of injury or loss”.  If we share that last 10% of our lives with people we trust we do run the risk of being rejected.  There it is!!!!  Rejection, the single largest fear of the human race.  Ever since Adam and Eve hid from God we have been following that pattern.  Hiding.  Hiding our struggles because of the fear of rejection.

Several months ago, I witnessed what happens when you are willing to share that last 10%.  A pastor friend of mine did something many of us say that it will never happen to me.  He committed adultery.  He lost everything.  He had hidden that last 10% for so long and it had caught up to him.  He did what he vowed he would never do and everything collapsed like a house of playing cards.  For the next 3 years he and his wife went through the painful but healing process of working through that last 10%.  Today, he has a great marriage.  Even though he did a very bad thing, today he shares his story openly.  He shares how Gods grace and his wife’s forgiveness has not only restored his relationship with his wife and God but has launched it to levels he never thought possible.

As I listened to my friend and his wife share their story to a class full of young married, I witnessed something amazing.  Their authenticity gave others the permission to speak honestly.  The next several months his schedule booked up with people wanting to talk.  Couple after couple filed into his office, sharing their stories, sharing that last 10%.

God brings healing, however people need to see grace and authenticity lived out with skin on.  It begins with me being honest.  My honesty gives people permission to speak honestly and that is when healing begins.

depressionThrough the magic of social networking, I connected with a young lady from my youth group from the past.  Many years have passed and her life has changed.  She has 2 kids and her youngest (5 yrs old) has brain cancer and it is moving quickly throughout his body.  That is bad enough, but as we learn more about the situation, our friend, has had some drug problems and consequently her children are currently in foster care.  She is restricted to 4 hours a day with her child in the hospital, and that is only if she is lucky enough to find a ride to the hospital.

As I thought about her struggles,  I found myself trying to place myself in her shoes.  I have never had a drug problem, I have never had my kids taken away and I have never had a child experience a life threatening illness.  I had concluded that I could not relate to her experiences, OR COULD I?

Even though I have not experienced what she is experiencing, we have a lot more in common than I realized.  Even though my situation is different, it seems we are both asking the same questions.  Here are a few of the common questions:

  • God, Why?
  • God, Why me?
  • Do you really care?
  • Did I do something to deserve this?
  • What are you trying to teach me?
  • Why can’t you take care of this quickly?
  • What do I need to do?

Pain comes in a lot of different forms.  Pain produces questions.  It is something we all experience.  It is something we all can relate to.  You don’t have to be a drug addict to relate.  You just have to know that they are experiencing some pain in their life.  I am sure you can relate to that.

My Church Website…

Posted: September 11, 2009 in Leadership, Thoughts, vision
Tags: , , ,

websiteI read an interesting article today about church marketing.  The article points out that most websites point out the positive of the church (and often times not truthfully).  But, what if a church website was honest about their weakness.  Instead of trying to hide them, and hope no one sees them, what if we mentioned them up front?  Here are a few from the article:

  • Our sermons run an hour plus and our pews aren’t padded: You do the math.
  • We work our volunteers to death. Then grumble when they want a break.
  • Drums are evil.
  • Our Sunday morning service is a major production. Sit back and enjoy the show.
  • Our people probably won’t talk to you until you volunteer for something and even then don’t hold your breath.
  • We pay lip service to social justice.
  • We stand up and sit down a lot, so try to keep up, OK?
  • Our sermons have more movie clips than Bible quotes.
  • You’re going to get lost in our sprawling campus. Bring a map or hire a guide.
  • We believe homosexuality is…
  • The only diversity you’ll find here is in our stock photography.
  • We’re so heavenly minded that we’re no earthly good.
  • We plan more social events than Bible studies.
  • Nothing ever starts on time at our church.
  • Our pastor is a minor celebrity with an ego to match.
  • We think the role of women in leadership is…
  • We’re really old.
  • Churchese spoken here. Translators are not available.
  • We’re good people but we’re going to judge you.
  • Our children’s ministry is an after thought.
  • We hug.
  • On Sunday morning you’ll never/always see an altar call.
  • Our people talk more gossip than gospel.
  • We lift up our hands and get a little crazy when we worship. It’s going to freak you out.

So, what would your church website look like, if you were honest?

Life is a process of events and moments that help mold and shape you into what God’s desire is.  That sounds great but moments can be hard.  Moments in life are often painful and full of questions.  However, think about this, what if every moment in my life, and yours,  were driving us to a destination?  It doesn’t matter if the moments are good or bad, they are the fuel to push us to a greater destination.  Moments help fine-tune us.

Moments may drive us to a destination but the road is paved with attitude.  Moments have the potential to launch us into the next phase or sink us into despair. Like standing at a crossroad with one sign pointing to the left and one to the right, I must decide my attitude. That attitude will shape and formulate my destination.

Embrace the moments of life and let them drive you to your destination, as long as you have the right attitude. It is not easy at times (I sometimes relapse with a bad attitude) but stay focused and stay on track.

Imagine if our churches were filled with embraced moments with good attitudes?  Imagine if the work place were filled with embraced moments with good attitudes?

happy-face-istock-456In 1992 David Myers wrote the book, “The Pursuit of Happiness:  Who is Happy and Why?”.   His research was focused on what the key elements were that provided happiness.  It wasn’t long before the research displayed a very clear element that rose above the rest.  It wasn’t wealth, fame, good-looks, or achievement awards.  The one element that stood out as a clear proponent of happiness was Relationships, close ones!

We are created to be in relationships.  We are not created to be lone-rangers.  It is close relationships that contribute to the happiness of man kind.  Isolation deteriorates happiness.  Isolation tears down walls of purpose.  It is in isolation where the voice of the enemy becomes very loud and we find it difficult to hear other voices.  The enemy tells us we are worthless and our belief system is damaged.  Life becomes hard and we sink into a depression that feels impossible to climb out.

The good news is that our creator created us to experience close relationships.  It is the close relationships that help heal the hurts of the soul.  Face to face laughter, crying and sharing life experiences are vital to the pursuit of happiness.  We all need close friends.  2 Corinthians 5 tells us that ‘God has settled the relationship between us and Him and then called us to settle our relationships with each other.”  Relationships begin by taking a sincere interest in someone other than yourself, including God.

Close relationships don’t require money, fame or class prerequisites.  You don’t need a PhD or own the latest gadgets.  All you need is close friends and you will be on your way to happiness.

How is your relationship with God?  Isolated? Close?   How about with others?  Pursue happiness today.  Pursue a relationship with God and with others.