Perhaps you were born for a time such as this.

Have you ever had one of those days when the puzzle pieces just fell together? We had one of those today in our household. It’s not one of those great days of revelation, but rather some slow and steady things that have been simmering for some time but just hit 212 degrees and have started rocking and rolling.

I wrote the other day about vision. About how I’m coming to learn that vision is not something you do, but something you have. In the world that I live in, mans plans of any sort are secondary to those of my Father in Heaven. And while His ways are not my ways, and His thoughts are not my thoughts, He does want us to be able to follow him. I think I used to to believe that if you just looked hard enough, you could find God’s will. But I don’t believe that anymore; as I read in a book earlier this week, we can’t find God’s will; it must be revealed.

A few months ago, I started a set of strategic business planning and entrenprenurial leadership coaching with Mark Sturgell of the Performance Develop Network. PDN has been there for me quite a bit over the last year, and will be with me as we head in the future, regardless of where we head. As part of that process, we spent a good bit of time talking about identifying vision, mission, and values, and how those will be constant roadmarkers for me, my business, and my life as I move into the future. Through that process, I realized that a great opportunity for us to work within will be specific types of associations within some specific industry areas. I made a few contacts, had a few phone meetings, and then the summer got busy. I lost touch with a few of the people I wanted to meet, and admit I was a bit discouraged, although I knew I’d “try again” sometime.

Sometime happened a couple days ago, when I knew I just had to knock out an old to-do list. As I made calls and wrote emails, I connected with the guy I’d lost track of in May, who remembered me and also couldn’t remember how we’d lost touch.We spoke for about 30 minutes about a vendors association that serves two particular other associations; the very ones I’ve wanted to get involved with, but have been pursuing as individual organizations instead of the association as a whole.

All that to say, in about a month we may well be participating in our first convention-type meeting with both the vendor association and the association that represents around 50 small busineses around Indiana that we want to pursue. It just so happens that this particular year, there will be a special joint convention and there will be member businesses from around the entire nation there as well. Everybody from Indiana. Several from around the country. Right in my back yard. And exactly where we felt we needed to be, but didn’t know how to get to.

Anyways… we also had a great experience with the vet and our new horse. He got a good bill of health and while we have some things to work on, it’s just another nail in the confirmation coffin that God has been leading us down this path, and that we have been following Him. We wander a lot, we lose the trail, but He is faithful to bring us home.

The last thing that really pulled this all together was how we started reading Esther on the Daily Audio Bible today. The story about a woman who clearly had a very specific purpose in a very specific place at a very specific time. Had she not stepped into her role, no matter how frightening, overwhelming, and crazy-big it seemed, the people of Israel – Jesus’ anscestors – would have been wiped off the face of the Earth. There’s a verse somewhere where her uncle Mordecai encourages her, “perhaps you were made for such a time as this.” That is an encouragement to me. I may not save a nation from annihilation. I may not cure cancer. I may not even find a specific role with this association; but I feel God leading us this way, it fits with everything we’ve discovered and have sought, and it’s like my Father is telling me, “Go For It. You Have What It Takes, and I Have Your Back.”

To hear that? From my Creator? Why do I fear? Why am i hesitant? I choose not to be. I do not need to live in those lies, those half-truths… We know where we’re going, and we are going there… now.

So anyways… another rock on the pile. God is faithful. Our stories matter. Mine. Yours.

What I've Done

Linkin Park is one of my favorite musical groups to listen to while I run, work out, or just drive and need some noise. As I was listening to them while on a run yesterday, though, I remembered another reason I like them… They ask some hard questions, they deal with the real mess that is the life we live with. I have no idea of the spiritual state of these guys, but the fact that they’re a rather popular band (especially a few years ago I think) means they’re connecting in some fashion to their audience, and I think, if we’re honest with our hearts, it’s not just because of their sound. They deal with real stuff.

So I was thinking as I ran that I wanted to blog about a song or two of theirs, to just listen to the words and digest the heart of the matter… not so much the answers they’re providing, but rather, the questions they are asking. Because those same questions are the questions many of those I have a heart for, and a bit of influence over, are dealing with. So I picked the one song I happen to have a music video for, and away we go…

What I’ve Done

Linkin Park

In this farewell
There’s no blood
There’s no alibi
‘Cause I’ve drawn regret
From the truth
Of a thousand lies

[Pre-Chorus:]
So let mercy come
And wash away
What I’ve done

[Chorus:]
I’ll face myself
To cross out what i’ve become
Erase myself
And let go of what i’ve done

Put to rest
What you thought of me
While I clean this slate
With the hands of uncertainty

[Pre-Chorus]

[Chorus]

For what I’ve done
I start again
And whatever pain may come
Today this ends
I’m forgiving what I’ve done!!!

[Chorus]

What I’ve done
Forgiving what I’ve done

What I’ve Done is one of my favorite songs by Linkin Park, and I think a lot of that comes from the truth that I’ve had my own share of experiences I’d care not to re-live. It’s so easy to go through life defined by these actions, whether they are shameful, heroic, failures, or successes. Striving has become something that seems as much as the American Dream as apple pie, and a life lived constantly on the lookout for “what’s next” is simply considered normal.

But how many of us are ruled by regret, as this song says… “from the truth of a thousand lies.” Those things we believe about ourselves that are really false but that we make out to be true, or those things that perhaps really are true that we’ll never believe. No matter what, should we allow these “definitions” of ourselves – defining ourselves by what we’ve done – to dictate our worth or direction, we’ll always fall short, and we will know it.

This song seems to be mainly about the regrets of life. About the things nobody wants to remember, to deal with consequenses of, or much less to relive. As I look through the words of this song, and even it’s tone, look to the answers that are being sought to this question, “how do I handle what I’ve done… what I’ve become?”

Let Mercy Come and Wash Away What I’ve Done

Face Myself, Erase Myself, Let Go of What I’ve Done

Put to Rest what You Thought of Me.

All of this seems to be a recognition that one can’t “deal” with the pain left by experiences we regret. You can’t forget them, atone for them, or simply bury them. In the end, they get to the heart of the matter. We need… forgivness. Here, I think they’re more talking about forgiving one self, but the point is clear: You have to let go.

As a Christian, the last several lines ring very true for me. The pain DID come for what I’ve done. It WAS dealt with, in fact, it was carried by a perfect man, God Himself, to a cross, on a hill, far away, 2000 years go.

Mercy came. My true identity was made known to the one bringing that mercy and carrying my pain, and He still accepted (and accepts) me.

So In The End (another Linkin Park title), it doesn’t really matter “what I’ve done,” because my burden has been carried, the stain has been washed away, and my slate has been wiped clean.

Here’s the music video, if you care to watch it. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

 

The Looks We Give

Our church is doing some major remodeling right now so we’re meeting in the Fellowship Hall for a few weeks for our services. This has led to some new seating arrangements with chairs, piano, and pulpit placement falling victim to “wet paint” signs, stacks of construction equipment, and even a radio-active warning back by the nursery… whatever THAT’s about. It kind of reminds me of camping, which I really like. Everythings in limbo, and everybody knows it, and very few people care. We’re all just glad to be there.

One thing you can do with this temporary seating arrangment, depending on where you’re sitting, is see a lot more faces. Instead of everyone staring at the stage and the pastor, you can actually see the faces of the people you’re worshipping with. I will actually miss this piece of our temporary arrangement when it’s done. Because one thing I like to do is watch faces. The looks we give – to others, to those we’re listening to (or ignoring), and even to ourselves, in a way, tell quite a bit. I spent a good bit of time looking around, and kind of watching myself as well, with the awareness that those faces we make truly are out there for anyone to see.

I noticed one thing right off. It’s fun to make faces at the people up front when you’re close enough for them to notice you, and when they can’t make faces back. That’s really, really fun… perhaps a little evil, but still fun. It’s also quite enjoyable to simply be able to smile across the room to someone else looking directly in your direction – a friend, a little kid, someone you’ve never met. And what’s even MORE enjoyable is to be smiled back at (or have a tongue stuck out at you, as seems to be the case with most of my younger friends).

What I also noticed, though, is that we (self included here), give a lot of looks that DON’T communicate fun, love, or I’m-Excited-To-See-You feelings. This past Sunday was my son’s first week in “big church.” Regardless of the effectiveness of bringing a five year old into worship with a room full of grownups, he was there… and being that it was his first week, he certainly doesn’t know the rules of the road. “No, you do not have to answer the pastor’s questions out loud.” … “Yes, I’d like it if you didn’t yell out ‘I have to go poooop!’ every 15 minutes.” But besides those words… what is my body, and my tone, saying? Are they communicating disapproval? Exhaustion? Love? Driven-Up-A-Wall-edness?

You can see it anywhere you look. A parent trying to silence a kid from across the room. The “you’d better get up here” look. The “I’m actually quite THRILLED to see you look.” Or the looks of tiredness, boredom, impatience, or even disgust. So much is communicated with out the use of our mouths that you’d think we’d realize people are watching, and “listening” to what we’re saying. And if we realize that, and keep doing it, what does that say? Do we care? Do we actually MEAN what’s communicated by those inverbal “words,” whether they are privately shared or publically visible?

I’ve read numerous places that communication is only minorly made up of verbal words. I believe the going percents are 7% verbal, 38% tone of voice, and 55% body language (including “the look” I’d think). So it would be very easily to say one thing and communicate something entirely different, wouldn’t it? I know I’ve poorly used an excuse that “what I said is what I meant,” even though it completely contradicted the other 90+% of my communication.

Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit – you choose.

Proverbs 18:20 The Message

So this has been a reminder to me, and a challenge, to watch what I say. And when I say “say,” I mean communicate. The Bible says many places that words can KILL someone. You can destroy a person’s heart with words, and if language is comprised much more than with words and sounds alone, what does mean we are doing with our non-verbal stabs, blut-force-traumas, and pin-pricks? I, personally, have a lot to work on. I can say without a doubt that I’ve heart hearts of those I love with sentences, which although argulably neutral based on their words, are objects of death when communicated with tone and body.

I’ve also been dealt those blows. The look of disappointment IN me. The look of someone else disappointing ME. The look of fear, of aggravation, of being tired of dealing. And in many cases, I’ve grown accustomed to running from them, or at least avoiding them by not putting my heart on the line.

All of that said… I think we grow stronger when we look around us. We see that we’re not alone, that we all DO make mistakes, and that there are tremendous opportunities to build people up through kind and simple expressions of love.

—-

P.S. As I’ve been writing this, and as I was thinking over vacation as well… think about this little tidbit.

The primary part of communication is body language. The secondary part of communication is tone. The last piece of communication is the actual words.

What does that mean about the technology we use? The phone… it takes out the body language (and throws in imaginary body language that is often incorrect). And after that… texts… they take out both body language AND tone and allow us to assume SO much more that is really there (or isn’t there). I’ve come to the realization that if I can have an in-person conversation with someone, even if it needs to wait, that’s the way to go. Phone is a decent second alternative (although Skype might be better), but it still causes something to be lost. And texts? While you can have a conversation of text, which I often do… you’ve got to go into it knowing that much of what you’re trying to say or trying to hear is either (1) assumed and not true or (2) assumed and true. Either way… it’s assumed. And you know what assuming does, right?

Vision, Confirmation, and a Galloping Horse

Galloping Horse Hooves

My wife and I have been on a bit of a journey over the past 3 months. It has not at all been a thrill ride, an adventure we would have chosen, or a path we would have chosen on our own. But it has been good, and looking back, I believe we have “walked with God.” He’s taught us patience, hope, trust, clarification, and even boldness and courage. As a tribute to God’s faithfulness and my lack of memory, I want to get some of the story down here.

Last May, Erin went off a Women’s retreat in Tennesse modeled after Captivating by the folks at Ransomed Heart. I stayed at home with the kids and she and a friend made the 300 mile, 4 day trek down south. There really was no sign of what was just beyond the horizon. These retreats are awesome; I go to one of the men’s retreats (Called Wild at Heart Boot Camp) each year with a group in Southern Indiana. They are about so much more than just song time and teaching… true healing, discovery, and brother and sisterhoods are built. I wouldn’t trade my experiences there for much of anything, and was excited that Erin was able to go. (I don’t know if I ever told her this, but I’d been praying that she’d be able to go for years).

While down there, she thinks during a prayer time, Erin had something of a vision. She really doesn’t remember all of the details, because it wasn’t all that “deep” at the moment. It was of her, on horseback, looking down at the feet of a galloping horse. That was really all she remembers now, or at least all that I remember that she remembers.

On the day Erin was to come home from her trip, the dominoes started to fall. I had some friends out to ride our horses on that Sunday, and Alpine, our quarterhorse, went CRAZY. He’d had a bad day a few weeks before, but some medicine took care of it. This was much stranger. Kicking the barn, squeezing into places he shouldn’t, even stepping on one of the girls when he should have been acting much calmer. Because of the past experience, I got in touch with the vet, and she had me bring him in. On a Sunday. In the evening. You know it’s important when that happens. The vet did a number of physical and blood tests and couldn’t really find anything, so I brought Alpine home with some very specific things to watch and an intestinal track to work on keeping clear with some very nasty medicine. If something like this happened again, we’d have to make the decision we knew we’d have to make.

Later that week, Erin told me about the vision. One thing that was noticably missing was the face of the horse she was riding. It wasn’t in her perspective… were we to believe that Alpine would fully recover and run again, or was this some other horse she’d later gallop with. We. Did. Not. Know.

But we prayed. We accepted that God’s plans are not ours, nor are his ways our ways. But we prayed for healing. We believed, in fact, that it would come. I shoved medicine through Alpine’s mouth through a cake decorating tool because it tasted so bad for him. We had to watch him very carefully, had to be home a lot more than normal, Erin even dug through his poop looking for rocks, which we thought he may have been eating and had blocked his system.

I don’t know how much later it was… a couple weeks, maybe, and it happened again. Thankfully, Erin was home this time. We ran Alpine into the vet, and this time, while examining him, the vet found a rapidly growing tumor on his spleen, right in the way of his intestinal tract. So many things suddenly made sense. The rock eating was because the cancerous tumor was attacking his blood system, and causing him to crave limestone for it’s calcium. It also explained all the licking he was doing on his stall bars (for the iron). It explained the weight loss, the constipation, and EVERYTHING. It was a sort of closure, I guess. We knew what it was time to do. We had some options for how to do it, but we knew even then what our path was to be.

We loaded Alpine up that very night, hauled him up to Purdue, and donated him to their veterinary school. Students, veterinarians, and others will learn from our horse about a rare cancer that may someday be more easily discovered or effectively treated.

So that chapter ended. We were obviously terribly sad, confused, even a bit lost. But I don’t think we felt let down. I don’t think Erin’s vision had lost it’s intensity; if anything, it was a sign to NOT give up; to keep our eyes open, to watch for what God WOULD do.

About a month later, we started looking for horses. Well, really, Erin did. I just reviewed the wish list every now and then to try to rule out the ones that involved me driving truck and trailer all around our good state. Occasionally we’d fine one we wanted to inquire on, and it would either already be sold, have something that turned us off, or be something to keeo our eye on.

There was a time when Erin had her “really like” list down to 3 horses. One was pricey, but possibly worth it. Another had a very good recommendation, but was a long way away. And the third was close, but relatively unknown and a little bit “normal.” Erin went to see one of them and really liked it… but was it worth the money?

She prayed for God to make things clear to her. That very night, the expensive horse and the far-away horse were reported as sold. So… another prayer answered, and we set up an appointment to go see Stormy, a Morgan / Paint gelding about 20 minutes from our home.

Erin fell in love with the horse. Colton fell in love with the horse. His comfort level was such that he did some things with me on horseback he’s never done before. The horse was the size Erin had been wanting, had the temperament we wanted, and was close. A little pricey, but possibly doable… We had a week of vacation coming up so told the girl (she’s 19 I think) that we wanted to take some time and would get back in touch when we returned. There was no peace about rushing it or making a decision right away, but much peace about relaxing, and letting God lead us.

We didn’t talk about Stormy much over vacation. A little, but not a lot. I felt like, and later did, ask God something like, “Is this for us?” and “Can we have him?” I didn’t really know the questions to ask, but I asked anyways. No clear answer, just “follow my lead,” essentially.

When we got home, Stormy’s owner emailed Erin to see if we were still interested. Yes we were. And I don’t remember exactly what, but now things really started moving in our hearts. “This might be it,” we said. We could see God leading us in this direction.

The last issue was price. We’d just spent several thousand dollars between vacation, putting Alpine down, and have a yearly hay bill coming up. We didn’t have the money in the bank to pay for the horse. So we started praying about that. Yes, we own a business. It’s profitable. There’s some money we can pull from it, and it IS money that we have a right to. It’s not borrowing, stealing, or cheating. It’s our business, created in part to make money, and it’s been a long time since we took anything “extra” from it.

A dollar figure stuck in my head was about 2/3 of what the girl was asking. I didn’t want to insult her, but I had no peace about just agreeing to the price she’d said or even the knocked down price she gave us. So Erin said I could have the job of negotating. I sat down with my email, wrote out my note with the how much and the why we could afford, and told her if this didn’t work out, we wouldn’t take offense and might try to come back in a few months if the horse was still available.

She took the offer. As is. Exactly what I felt was what we should offer.

And in 2 days, we go to pick up our horse. There’s still a vet-checkup to be done within a week to make sure everything’s all good. Who knows what might come up. But as we’ve walked this path with God, He’s been continually faithful. Not to what we thought He “should” do or probabably “would do” or what he “ought to do” to make us happy. But he has remained faithful to His character, and to those who love him.

All of this comes back now to Erin’s “little” vision while on her retreat. Of her, on horseback, galloping over a field… running, playing, even frolicking. What could easily be written off as a dream or indigestion has so much meaning to us now as we’ve walked this path. It provides confirmation, assurance, confidence, and peace.

What would happen if God wouldn’t have worked this out as He did? Well, to be honest, I have no idea. He didn’t work it out as we initially believed and hoped he would. Our horse of 5 years DIED. He’s GONE. Stormy won’t replace that horse, those memories, or Alpine’s place in our hearts. But he is a reminder of God’s goodness, his love, and his constant care for OUR hearts.

Walking with God is so much different than I grew up knowing. It’s so much more than trying to please him or hoping He’ll bless our attempts. It’s about watching, learning, and observing the plans of one much greater than ourselves. Vision is not about seeing the future. It is about opening our eyes to what is already around us, and admitting we can’t see it all (or even dream it all up) on our own. Vision, while so often treated as an active action we must perform or come up with, is much more of a passive observance of One who’s bigger plans are so much greater than our own, and it’s truly a thrill ride of a life to live.

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not My ways.” [This is] the Lord’s declaration. “For as heaven is higher than earth, so My ways are higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.”—Isaiah 55:8–9

What Benefits Others

Tony Dungy Mentor Leader

I just finished reading Tony Dungy’s latest book – The Mentor Leader, while laying on the couch in our rental travel trailer. My wife and son are playing on the beach of the Gulf of Mexico, and my daughter is (finally) getting a good nap in the back of the camper.

What a book this was! I am an avid student of the concept of mentoring, as it’s something I very much desire as a trait that defines much of what I do, especially in relationships I have in which I have the opportunity to truly share life, as I call it. Whether it’s with the teens I teach and hang out with at church, my staff, my customers, my family, or even myself, I believe there is much to be gained in sharing life with one another on a daily basis.

The end of this book could not have come at a better time for me. While on this 10 day vacation that we’re on, I’m having the opportunity to live on “island time,” to put the clocks away and schedule by daylight, amount of heat, rain showers, and naptimes. It’s been a wonderful and much needed catalyst to reflect on where my efforts are currently at in life, and if they are truly focused on the real sharing of life that I believe they should be.

As I got to the end of this book, I was reminded that every day – in fact, every moment – is an opportunity to be sharing life. However, that doesn’t mean that every “opportunity” should be taken. There are distractions, both those I am unprepared for in my own naievety and those that are actually in opposition to what I desire to do, that I must be prepared for. Some of these are very inviting distractions. But what they do is feed me, instead of feeding others.

A guy named Nelson Henderson once said, “Life is about planting trees under whose shade you never expect to sit.” In the world of trees, this makes much sense. Unless one stays in the same place for decades, that seedling you planted will be more “in the way” (of the mower, primarily) than it is beneficial for the shade it provides. But how else will a grove of trees be planted where none existed before? Long term planning, and living with the end in mind, are constant reminders that what we do now DOES matter, but not just for the here and now. Ultimately, life is all about the benefits others will receive after me, through me, and even in spite of me.

As Tony Dungy said it, “”Rewards can’t be your primary motivation . You have to derive satisfaction from seeing your group flourish and achieve its goals
and to see EVERYONE reap the benefits of success.”

So I’ve been thinking… in sharing life as I do with others, am I doing so for their benefit, or for my own reward? Upon some thought and introspection, I’m finding that there are still quite a few places where I’m pouring a lot of energy into things – relationships, tasks, whatever – for reasons that are ultimately selfish. In turn, those I am sharing life with in fact be the objects of a life-sucking experience that they need not be.

No matter what the cost, I am committed to share life with others. To find those I can reach out to and bring them along in any means I can. Although he was talking about setting boundaries in relationships with those we mentor, I think this line by Dungy sums it all up:

“Yes Its important to have boundaries in mentoring relationships. But the important thing is to do everything you can for the benefit of the other person. If you keep that in mind, you’ll never cross the line and go beyond where you should.”

What a great statement. What a convicting statement. Are the relationships I have – even ones where I do all the listening, the serving, or whatever – geared toward my own benefit? “Yes” could certainly be the answer to that in many cases… I derive satisfaction from so many places, but if I’m totally honest, I must say that it means a lot – to me – to be told that I’m helping someone. Or to feel wanted, or to feel needed. While that’s certainly not a bad thing – I think we all need those moments of affirmation – they don’t need to be the defining lifestyle I live for, but rather moments of affirmation, rocks to add to the pile, and reminders that the lifestyle of serving and helping others is what truly matters.

I’m excited to see where this takes me. I find that reading, getting away from the clock, and reconnecting with my family has a way of reprioritizing much of what I do. And even though we’re only gone for 10 days here, that’s a big thing for me, and very welcome. Walking back into “the matrix” will of course be tough, both because of the pile of things I’m sure that will be there, but also to maintain traction with things God is teaching me while He has more of my attention than normal. Life is seasonal, and I am truly grateful for this season I’m having right now, no matter what “the cost” may be to my comfort level down the road.