Where I stand now – Organization

This is an area where I see a huge need for improvement, and I can tell that I’m holding out. From mapping out my “ideal week” or day to planning each day before the previous day is done, I am consistently NOT doing what I believe I should. I’m doing better in some areas, yes, but I’ve fallen short on doing what I know I must do to make my days work for me, instead of the other way around.

Mark Sturgell, my business coach, has told me several times that successful peoples PRIORITIZE THEIR SCHEDULE, as opposed to SCHEDULING THEIR PRIORITIES. (crap – or is it the other way around?) The point is that you don’t just throw something important on a calendar and that’s it; it will get done. You must know each day what’s important to get done, and THEN go about planning your day around that. That may mean some things get done first before anything else, or it may mean that the day can’t end until I finish what I set out to do.

Right now, that’s not happening as it should. I want it to, but it’s not. My schedule is so haphazard right now that it’s quite apparent that what my days look like right now is not what they looked like 3 months ago and is not what they’ll look 3 months from now. Change is definitely occurring, and I am in a better place than I was before – I at least know what IS important to do – so now we’re coming upon matters of choice, of habit development, and of true character development. Do the things I do match the person I claim to be? I want the answer to that to be YES, every time.

There are some specific things I want to work on here. Here’s a few:

  • Develop an ideal week for my work day. I say “week” instead of “day” because my schedule DOES vary day by day right now, both because of the variety of hats I wear in the business and the nature of my schedule – 3 days in town, and 2 at home office, for instance.
  • Develop a method of tracking what I do each day. I don’t feel the need to capture this detail every 15 minutes or so, but really, is that THAT hard? That’s only 30-40 times of taking note of what I’m doing during the work day, and that’s not too bad. There are other ways to keep track of it as well. The new time tracking software I’m using is a much need help in this area.
  • Develop a good contact management system that works for both existing customers and tracking sales. I need something that helps me VISUALIZE my sales funnel and the state of potential customers. Reports and sheets of paper stacked on top of each other don’t work for me.
  • Develop a method of prioritizing goals, and relating the small goals to the bigger ones that truly keep me motivated. Again – a stack of Goal Planning Sheets doesn’t work for me. I’ve thought of an outline of sorts, but don’t know how to make that work yet, because I’m not really sure of the deep motivators that are at the top of the chain.
  • Fit other areas into my “work day” rather than just time spent serving customers of the business. Bookkeeping, Sales, Business Planning, Networking, all that stuff is pretty easy. But what about exercise, motivational reading or listening, use of commuting time, etc. This stuff relates to my business life in less tangible ways, but I want a way to work it ALL into an ideal week, including the personal time I have with myself and family (although possibly not as specific here).

So those are some organizational things I want to work on. I’ve identified several and they are doable. They need to be done. They MUST be done. It’s easy to say life doesn’t depend on it, but the life I want to live DOES, which makes them worth pursuing and achieving.

Where I stand now – Ability to Crystallize Your Thinking

Just what does it mean to crystallize my thoughts? To me, the picture is of a solution that is mainly water, but you know that dissolved in that water are all sorts of minerals, some of them common, some of then valuable… but all of them, naturally, invisible. The water has claimed them, dissolved them so they are invisible to the naked eye, and unless something is done, they will remain that way indefinitely. So that’s the “process” of crystallization I guess as I see it… so how does that relate to my thought process?

To me, this ability is akin to being able to look at the world as I see it, everything in it, and pull out that information, knowledge, and wisdom that is useful to me… and then to DO something with it. It’s not enough to know that wisdom is “out there,” or that solutions are “out there.” We must get them out of the solution that is the world for us to be their master. It’s not even enough to know what’s IN the solution. For a crystal to become useful, it must be taken out of the solution.

The most obvious way I can think of to do this is to boil away the water. Maybe that’s the ONLY way… I kind of doubt it, but that’s what I see. And for me, that involves getting things WRITTEN DOWN and ORGANIZED. Whether it’s a goal planning sheet that helps me take a specific and attainable goal and break it down into steps or a blog entry that simply forces me to slow down enough to pick the words I’m going to choose, writing is what CRYSTALLIZES my thoughts.

I love to journal. I love to blog. I love to create plans for myself, and for others. Lately I’ve had the opportunity to start incorporating this into my sales process as I recap with potential customers the needs I can help them fulfill, and it has been met with great reviews. It’s actually led me to some new services I hope to offer, making my business more and more of a consultant, value-adding business than just a fire-truck business where we’re constantly dealing with the latest emergency.

At this point, writing almost has to happen for me to get a thought thoroughly developed. Whether it’s a lack of ability to keep the ideas sorted out in my head or just running too fast, I seem to have a rather verbose way of crystallizing thoughts. But then again, you don’t boil all the water out of a pot in a matter of minutes. It is a matter of temperature, pressure, and volume, I suppose.

So I’m making progress here. I’m definitely learning what works for me, and also what adds value to what I provide my customers. I’m learning a few of my weaknesses (too longwinded in words sometimes) and my strengths (ability to think on my feet, review and recap a conversation, and make a plan on paper). I’ve written more over the past several months than ever before, and it’s a joy to go back and watch my journey unfold.

Where I stand now – Attitude Development

I like this one.

My attitude is definitely under development… under construction. So many things have been identified that need to be torn down, and many things that need to be built in their place have become clear. I’ve severed some relationship ties, cut some ties that have held me back or added nothing to my life except stress and aggravation. I’ve set aside some habits and established some new ones. I’ve begun to recognize failure as not something to be feared, but to be accepted, embraced as part of the plan, and used as a powerful motivator toward success.

It’s still at an awkward stage, because much of this is theoretical for me and not all that practical. That or it’s so practical that I haven’t always made room for the flexibility that must be built in. But it’s developing.

My attitude of myself is changing much. I believe in me. I believe in my potential. I believe that I have something to offer, and that what I have to offer has value.

I believe in others, but the fact that they must reciprocate is not a necessity. There are many in my life that I can pour into but cannot expect to receive “what matters” back from them. I do need that, but I don’t need to get it from every possible source.

I understand I need to develop habits. I hope and pray that action follows attitude, but I believe that attitude will often follow action. I must put my beliefs into action to get them deep in my heart instead of just to the point where I “believe in them.” If I truly do believe in them, I’ll be able to get past feelings and into the realm where I’m willing to do that which I’m not totally comfortable with, because I know it’s right.

So yeah, this one is definitely under development and changing, and I enjoy it.

Where I Stand Now – Understanding My Needs

Understanding my needs?

Nope. Not there. Just look at one of the posts from earlier tonight. The question “what does it take to motivate me?” is all over the place. I see what I want, but I don’t see what it’s going to take to get there. I’m the kind of guy who has been comfortable only with knowing the whole plan from the beginning, and it was always nice if that plan was short, sweet, easy, and even didn’t totally depend on my “sticking with it.”

You know, now that I think about it, maybe I do understand my needs.

  • I need something / someone to motivate me.
  • I need something to get me through the “post-hump-day” that comes after you see the light but before you walk out of the dark. The part where you’re working you’re ass off, where you’re tired, where you fight the occasional day of failure or boredom or rabbit trails and feel like throwing in the towel. (this goes back to the first one, I guess)
  • I need someone(s) to believe in me. Someone(s) who’s opinion matter and who are willing to step into my life and take a risk on me.
  • I need to believe in myself.
  • I need to know these needs are being met.
  • I need to know this every day.

Affirmations have helped me much, but I don’t have many, and they aren’t written down as they should/could be. The same goes for goal planning. It works, but it’s scary to know that you’ve made a plan, and that now the only thing holding you back… is you… I want to “let the plan rule” instead of just winging it every day. I really want that.

I think a part I’m missing is that going ther with someone. Yes, my wife is there. She’s huge. She’s a bigger part than she’s ever been before. I can bounce anything off her, and even get great advice from her. But it’s not her role to walk this role with me right now. We have a family, that’s much of what takes up her life. It’s not her life’s dream to be consulting with companies, to be mentoring youth, to be doing all these things that are “my things.” She fits into many of them in her own way. So that brings me to these questions:

  • Do I need someone with the same desires and passions?
  • Do I need someone who will share my dreams and goals, or that has similar ones?
  • Do I need someone who will build into me, even if that also means I must also build into them?
  • WHO IS IT that I need?

DUH! Ugh. I hate it when these things hit me upside the head. If you go back to my tournament of wants championship round, you’ll see this “establish a mentor relationship with Steve Pierce” thing right there in big black letters. Look at this:

  • The man is full of wisdom. He is a pastor I admire.
  • He has a doctorate in leadership
  • He has experience in business ventures.
  • The guy has answered YES when I asked him to mentor me.
  • He’s offered to share business insights with me.

Start here Chet. Just do it.

You know what’s holding me back? I do. I know  exactly what it is. It involves a piece of paper, a few words, a signature, and a delivery. That will release me from the bond I’ve tied myself up with. It honestly probably doesn’t even need to be holding me back, but I’m letting it, and I’ve told myself I’m not pursuing this till I take care of this “deal” that needs to be dealt with. Ugh.

Ok fine. I’ll get it delivered this week. It’s going on the calendar for Tuesday.

 

Where I stand now – Leadership

Leadership. I’ve learned so much about this, both from the things I’ve been taught, the things I’ve observed in others, or the things I’ve learned by teaching others.

I taught a lesson to the youth at my church a couple months back where we watched a YouTube video called “The First Follower.” Looking back, that was one of those teaching moments that probably means much more to the teacher than the students.

I have taken leadership roles in the past for a number of reasons, sometimes because no one else will, sometimes because I felt the need to be in charge, and sometimes just because I really wanted to see a mission succeed and saw an opportunity for myself to help achieve it. More often than not, though, my attempts at “leading,” especially when it’s a position when I’m “in charge” have been met with a bit of frustration.

I’m finding more and more that I long to be that “first follower.” I long to not just find something and go achieve it, but to find a cause that not only I, but someone else, wants to achieve, and then to go do it together. Teams. Partnerships. I love that. I love not going alone.

It’s becoming central to a lot of my wants and dreams. One of the ones I remember the most was when I thought up, “to share my story with a room full of people.” That was shortly followed by, “To help someone else share their story with a room full of people.” In reality, the second one excites me more. It’s not that my story doesn’t have value, but if my story can reach a room full of people, what would it be like if my story could affect a few people who then have the courage to share their story with a room full of people… EACH!? That’s what I want. That’s how I want to lead.

In my business, that’s become clear to me as a part of my consulting work is to help companies do what they do best… better. To use technology, and even other areas I have understanding in, or have connections in, to help organizations excel. To see them succeed is to see me succeed.

Is that leadership? I guess so. Developing plans for others, developing goals for others, and listening are on this list of top strengths of mine from a survey I took awhile back. Lots of focus on others, very little on myself. Perhaps that’s why I don’t get that “much” out of what is really true success for myself. I probably should get more. But I have also learned that if I can find what makes me come alive, and go do that, I will be doing what I need to do.

I love to lead others to explore their ability to lead. Whether their “leading” is getting up front and taking a team to the championship, sharing one’s faith, or just being comfortable in one’s skin, that’s what I long to do. It applies to what I do at work, what I do with youth, what I want to do in my family, and where I really want to serve in places all around my life – church, community, school, business… it’s all over the place.

Anyways, that’s where I’m at here. Vague, yet much clearer than before. Even to the point that I’m not far from finding it as part of my purpose. Actually, I know it is. I just don’t have a nice sentance for it yet.

Where I stand now – Level of Motivation

This is a tough one. I see so much potential. I have several specific goals, both for my business/professional life and for my personal life. Some of them even cross that imaginary line and affect all of my life. A few of them I’ve put into goal planning sheets, and some others I’ve just stepped up and done because I knew they needed to just be stood up to and done. But then there’s the ones I know will take a lot of work, a lot of planning, and a good plan that could very well fail. I’m much more comfortable dreaming and even prioritizing dreams than I am turning them into actionable plans.

I want so much more right now. I see the way to get there. But I often feel I’m going at it alone. I know I have friends, I have a coach, I even have customers that will sit down and give me advice. I have a God that has plans and a future for me, and that also sets steps before to take that lead to that plan and that future. But the question that gets me still seems to be, how to I get from here to there?

Much of it is busyness. I’m still busy doing things to keep myself busy and bring in immediate income.

But beyond business, I think there’s something bigger. I think there is still fear of letting the plan be in control. Obviously not above God’s plan, but accepting the responsibility that even He wants me to step up and get from here to there. He wants me to trust him, to throw it all in, to risk much more than having to work extra hard to pay the bills.

I guess one thing I want is someone to walk this journey with. I’ve opened up much more to my wife, and even to a few friends, about ideas and plans, but that just seems to be sharing on the personal side. I don’t know if I want a partner, an investor, a what… but I want someone I can develop this plan with, someone else who has an investment. As I look at that, though… I have to ask…

Why do I feel I need that? And do I? Truly? Is that “part of the plan?”

If it is part of the plan, then I should make plans to make it happen. It could also just be fear, wanting someone else to pony up to the risk, to risk failure and success alongside of me.

So that’s where I’m at. It’s not where I want to be, but it’s further than I was. As I said at the start, this is a tough one.

Some questions I want to answer…

  • What does motivate me?
  • Who motivates me?
  • What kind of motivation lasts for me, both short term and long?
  • Can I make it a goal to find motivation that works for me?
  • Do I want to be motivated? Really?

So anyways, enough about that for now.

Today's near death experience…

On the way home with the family today when the truck next to us desides to start coming over into our lane. We’re right probably 20 feet up from his rear end, and the same from the front, so there was no where to go. So we honk at him… and he keeps on coming. Ran me all the way off the road into the median and almost into the “fence” made of massive steel cable that does the nice job of keeping cars from running headlong into oncoming traffic… or help keep an SUV smashed against the side of an oblivious semi. Still honking (and I think Erin was yelling at him?), and he keeps on coming. We’re running over trash, flying through the grass, not quite bottoming out or scraping the cables. Finally get slowed down a bit without losing control and get behind him.

Yeah, he never saw us. Didn’t have a CLUE. So I get in front of him, arm out, and wave him over to the shoulder. Get out, and go over to see what the hell the guy was trying to do. “Did you see the family of four you just about killed,” I ask him? Totally oblivious. “Yeah, right back there, about half a mile, you drove me totally off the left side of the road all the way into the grass and didn’t even slow down.” He literally starts shaking. I don’t know if he didn’t check his mirror, I don’t know if he was busy yacking on his CB or texting, but he definitely “got it.” I didn’t feel the need to yell at him, partly cause that’s not me, but also because he totally got it. Yeah, that was our closest to death experience in a while, but we’re safe, and accidents happen. He won’t go there now. Too struck by what he about did, running a car loaded with a family, a 4 month old girl, and a 4 year old boy, into the median going 70+ miles an hour.

So I got his info. And his company info. Shook his hand, told him to drive safe, and got back in the car. Had Erin get his license plate. Started talking about calling his company and just “letting them know” about the wonderful drivers they hire. And that’s when Erin reminded me, “he’ll probably lose his job.”

That’s when it hit me. I don’t need to file a complaint. I didn’t get mad there, I don’t need a sense of fulfillment by complaining (which is all it would really get ME). The guy was sincerely terrified. So instead…

…I’m going to write him a letter. Don’t kinow what about yet exactly, but something about a near death experience, and about how I’m glad I didn’t die, but I’m also confident if I did, all would be well. And that I saw that fear in his eyes, and that I forgive him. He doesn’t know me from anyone, and I may never see him again (although I did find him on Facebook). But I’ll let it go. And if he’s got stuff in his life, there’s a God who will not only forgive him, but also accept him, love him, and give him a life worth much more than we can ever earn.

I don’t have a clue what I’ll write. It probably won’t be much. Maybe I’ll just include a tract or something. But I’m going to show a little grace. Because I’ve been shown plenty.

From Where I'm Standing Now – Self Confidence

I think we all have plenty of opportunities to stop for a moment and ponder where we are in life right now. So many times, for me at least, I didn’t want to know. I don’t want to look at where I am, where I could be, and how I was either moving away from that point or just not moving at all. So I didn’t think about it. That’s one sure way to never get where you want to go. Maybe it’s a guy thing – like not wanting to look at a map or ask for directions – but I think it’s probably rather universal to the human condition, at least to the human condition left to it’s own. I am seeing God open up doors in my life into rooms that I otherwise would be afraid to enter because of the mess I might find inside, but with his help and assurance, I can enter them, clean house, and then possibly even invite a guest in to share the experience with me in a useful way. God truly can use the worst or dirtiest experiences or parts of our lives for His greatest glory.

I’m continuing that journey of standing on the mountaintop and looking around to see where I’ve been, how I got here, and where I’m going. Or maybe it’s not a mountaintop. Maybe it’s a hill. Ok… let’s be honest. Maybe I’m just stepping up on a dirt clod in some cases. But my head is above water, I can look around for a minute, and this is good.

My growth up to this point in terms of SELF CONFIDENCE

Much of this I’m sure is related to my growth up to this point in terms of Self Image. How can one be confident in one’s self if one does not know who one’s self is? I have gone for the majority of my life believing lies and only half-accepting truths. As I continue to grow to believe that I do have value and that I am a full fledged adopted son of The King, my confidence in myself grows as well. I still struggle with being comfortable in my own skin (literally at times), but I’m much more aware of that battle, which makes it more of a fight than a struggle, if that word differentiation means anything.

Take this last week for example. I made a mistake in the “sales process” with a new customer and wound up billing them for something we hadn’t fully discussed. They caught it, and confronted me about it through a polite email. In the past, I would have either (1) launched into an explanation as to why the cost was justified and how it was a part of doing business with me or (2 – more probable) just told them to ignore it and let it go. This time I did neither of those two. I instead scheduled a meeting to review the issue. As we sat down, we went back to “the list” of what I had originally proposed we do, and saw that we were making significant progress on it. My client was not in fact mad at me… they are overjoyed at the work we’re doing. When it came to the invoiced item in question, their problem with it was first of all that we hadn’t discussed it, and second of all that they didn’t feel they wanted that service. Again, I could have backed down, tucked my tail between my legs, and “lived to fight another day,” probably through a defensive email.

Instead I pushed on… “Ok,” I said, “I see your point. But I have to do something. This is part of what I consider taking care of your business and it’s a way that I ‘cover the cost’ of some of the tools we purchase to even be available to service you. What can we do?” The discussion continued. Eventually, I blurted out something like, “Well, the going rate for this service on a purely hourly basis is $___ an hour.” ($30 an hour more than I was currently working for) The next words shocked me.

“Let’s do that. I’m totally fine with that… Your customers want options,” she told me. I may think that the best way to do something is this way, but that may not (and will not) work for every customer. Just because that doesn’t work doesn’t mean I need to give up. I can press on, ask the hard question, get the customer involved in answering the problem. And I did it! I now have a client who doesn’t pay me a little service fee each month to cover my cost but instead covers my costs through a higher hourly rate. Everyone is happy, content, and feels they have been heard and their issues addressed.

That is a very specific place where I see my self confidence growing. Before, I would not have pushed through that door. I would have considered it shut and locked, when in fact the customer just had her foot against it, preventing me from breaking and entering without first asking permission. I used the things I’ve been learning, put them to action, and wound up right where I needed to be.

This self-confidence thing applies to many other areas of life. I’ve seen it dramatically influencing what I’m willing to talk about via email versus phone or in person discussions. I’ve used emails and written words too often to try to avoid direct confrontation, and something always gets lost in translation.

I took a personality test as part of my coaching process. My greatest strength, it said, was listening. Along with that strength came character qualities such as passive, not liking change that isn’t well supported, and so on. Those are not qualities I thought I admired about myself, but as I see that they aren’t necessarily bad, when combined with a life lived on purpose that doesn’t just “stop living” when things get hard, I see that they truly are strengths and not signs of weakness. I am interested to see if things change should I re-take that test at some later date, but I value knowing that listening is a quality I’m good at; it not only affirms my value, but it gives me something to relish doing when given the opportunity.

So all that said, my self confidence is on the rise. As is my need for a basis for that self confidence. I am confident in myself because I am created with value, because I have something to offer, and because people enjoy my company. I need not be afraid of being talked down, discouraged, or even told “no.” Those words do not determine or change my value; they give me opportunities to better myself, to examine weaknesses and make them strengths, and to boldly go where no Chet Cromer has gone before. I’m loving it.

But it sure isn’t easy. 🙂

But as David said in the Bible…

The Lord is with me, I will not be afraid;
What can mere mortals do to me?
The Lord is with me, He is my helper;
I look in triumph on my enemies.

My enemies are not often specific people. They are rather attitudes such as despair, loneliness, doubt, disappointment, and isolation. I think they still fit in this passage.. what can they do to me? What power do they have over me? Only that which I have given them, and I’m proud to say I am taking back lost ground.

From Where I'm Standing Now – Self Image

One of my assignments this week is to “describe my growth up to this point in terms of” 8 different areas of life. As I look at these topics, I’m looking forward to what I get to write down. I have not gotten to where I want to be in all (any?) of these categories, but I can actually say I’m able to stand up, look around, and give myself an honest look, finding both places I’ve grown and places I’ve still got room to grow.

So here we goooooo……

My growth up to this point in terms of SELF IMAGE

I see so much that has changed, and so much that is still the same, when I look at my image of myself. On one side, I’ve finally began to enact the believe that “I have worth.” For the last several years, even before my coaching experience, I have begun to better understand the reality that I am a child of the King, a full fledged, adopted son to the Creator of heaven and earth. But during the past several months, it’s like I’ve heard God telling me, “Then Act Like It. Act like you are who I tell you you are.” What’s that look like? What’s changed? Where have I grown?

I’m not a disappointment. In fact, I’m a success! In my family, my church, my business, and many other areas of my life, I provide something of worth. I add value to other people’s (and even organization’s) lives. The things I do are worth their investment – time, money, commitment. I don’t need to feel that I must only charge enough to provide a decent living. I can even see myself growing my business instead of just surviving this massive changes I’m going through right now.

I am beginning to truly enjoy the “running the business” side of running my business. In the past, I don’t know if I didn’t feel that I had what it takes or if I just didn’t really feel it was right for me to build a growing and decently profitable business. I think perhaps I was raised to believe, and then in turn believed myself, that every dollar I earn must be hard-earned. Must be fought for. Like I had to “prove” my value by the manual effort I put into something, instead of the results or value it produced. I would have seen myself as that guy who could charge $1,000 for pushing a button because he’s the only guy who know what button to push. But I’m finding now, that I do have that kind of value. Maybe not just for button pushing, but for things I am uniquely created for and gifted in… I have value. And I believe it. And as I look into these other growth things I think that will come through to me even more.

I still struggle here. I still have a huge weak spot for feeling like I’m a disappointment. I still read into people’s words (especially non-verbal) and actions. I told a friend of mine earlier this week that I was going to stop analyzing everything they said and just believe them. I need to do that. I don’t need to lower my image of myself just because something rubs me wrong. If it’s an insult against me, fine, I can either retaliate, ignore it, or take it in stride and move on. It doesn’t have to ruin my day or cause me to fire back my own words or thoughts defending myself or fighting back.

I.

  Have.

    Value.

That is where I’ve grown the most in this idea of self image. I AM something valuable, I HAVE something valuable to offer, and whether or not people can see that in me, doesn’t change it.

This is affecting several areas of my life, including the way I talk, the way I seek out in-person meetings instead of hiding behind emails, the way I want to improve my health and body composition whilst at the same time being content with my own skin, and even the ability to just let some things go. It is so freeing.

One of "My" Glimpses of the Bigger Picture

This past Sunday I was reminded about the reality of the bigger picture, even the “more real” world that The Matrix gave us a great picture of, although it was quite allegorical. Much of my world is nice and neat, surrounded by what I would imagine are God-fearing and God-honoring people. If I want to really reach out into the hearts of teenage kids, I need to go hunting for them outside my church doors, right? I mean, these guys and girls are doing fine, doing great, and loving and worshipping God at any chance they get… right?

Right?

Wrong.

Dead wrong. And I should know better. I’ve seen how “hurt” a heart can get by just putting a mirror on my own. Not just hurt by mean people, but hurt by my own false impression of myself, of God, and my picture of what others think. Even if it’s totally false, I still bought into it. How much more so the young men and young women I’m getting to know better and better. While it’s not a mid-life-crisis as we often think of it, it certainly is a crisis, at least according to the definition Google gives me: “an unstable situation of extreme danger or difficulty.” How many kids get lost in the high school years? Lose their way? Lose respect for (or of) their parents? Lose hope? Lose confidence in themselves? It’s all over the place, and I saw a glimpse of it this Sunday.

I grabbed a whiteboard this past Sunday as I taught Sunday School and asked the kids three questions. We were wrapping up a video series called Gospel Journey: Maui. It was an attempt at a reality series where they brought a group of several open-minded people together from different faiths and talked openly and honestly about faith, God, and life. It was actually pretty good, if I say so myself. I especially learned a lot from Jasser, the Islamic guy, who had a great respect for his god, and while my faith, beliefs, and God tell me he’s headed in the wrong direction, this boy was utterly sincere, and it shone through.

So at the end of the series, I asked our kids three questions, and had them write their answers, completely anonymously, on a sheet of paper I then collected and transferred to the whiteboard. The questions:

  • How would you describe Jesus (in a word)?
  • How would you describe Jesus’ message?
  • How would Jesus describe you.

The answers tell a story that I knew was real, but was suprised to get out of these guys at 9:00 AM on a Sunday morning. Check it out below:

 

 

All sorts of great things about Jesus, right (I added the “offensive” and “divisive” words about his message later on). High words. Lofty words. True words. But look at the words they used to describe how these kids feel Jesus (God) feels about them:

  • Fallible
  • Super
  • Pitiful
  • Lacking
  • Princess
  • Ignorant
  • A Child
  • Genuine
  • Wayward
  • I’ve never talked to him about it.

For the first time ever, I could hold something up in front of these guys and authoritatively say, “Look around you! You don’t have to go hunting broken hearts. You don’t have to go searching for someone who needs to know the Jesus you have, or the Jesus you want to have! They’re right here!” I know these kids, and I could probably pick certain people to go with certain words, but then again, I might be totally off base, as they might with me. We hide things so well, and it appears that we do so at a very early age. Many of the kids in this group have grown up in this church, and here they are, 15, 16, 17, 18 years old, feeling that God thinks they’re pitiful, ignorant, and lacking.

Let’s get real, because this is real. This is the most honest set of words I’ve ever gotten had them give me, and I choose to accept it, and let it change me. I’m not going to pretend like everybody’s alright. I’ll accept that from them if they tell me, but just like me, there’s always more to the story. And I can do something about that. I can care for them. I can pray for them. I can let them know absolutely, without a doubt, at least one person believes in them, and so does their Heavenly Father. We all have earthly parents that fail us in one way or another, and I think we wind up attributing that to our Heavenly Parent, and then suddenly he’s looking down on us, disappointed in us, and unwilling to ask us to do big things.

I totally get that. Because that was much of my own life. I now know my Heavenly Father AS my True Father. My earthly father introduced me to him in his own way, and I appreciate that beyond words. But until we realize that that’s not all there is in the God that really loves us, we’ll be bound up in these words.

I truly loved this lesson. It opened my eyes, and the anonymity and randomness of the mixed up answers made it even more impressive to me that the fields truly are white for the harvest. I don’t even have to walk out the door to my “back yard” (the Plainfield High School is literally in our church’s back yard). They’re here, waiting, wanting, and fearfully wondering if there really is more out there than life is promising them.

Let’s show them that there is. THERE IS LIFE. FREEDOM. And JOY.