Saturday, March 31, 2012

It's Your Duty!

As many of you know, 'duty' is my favorite word in the whole wide world. It makes me giggle just typing it. It brings out the inner junior higher in me as I think about bodily functions and how funny they are.

However, doody is not as much fun when I encounter it on my morning walk. (Did you see what I did there? I know, I'm clever)

Attie and I were taking a morning stroll when we happened upon some dog doody on the sidewalk. First of all, who doesn't clean up after they take their dog on a walk? I mean, grab a stinking WalMart bag and do your duty! (I did it again) Number 2 (get it?), what dog poops on a sidewalk?! You have all that luscious grass around and you choose the place where I want to walk? That's just rude, Socrates! (I always thought that would be a cool name for a dog) Now, I want to be clear about one thing: I did NOT step in it. I am far too agile, even at 5:30am. But I was offended.

This whole encounter brought to mind some words of Jesus. I know, it sounds like a stretch, but stick with me:

Treat people in the same way that you want them to treat you. (Luke 6:31 CEB)

If you got the owner of Socrates alone in a moment of transparency, he would likely agree that it would not be cool to step in dog poop that someone else refused to clean up. I think that's a fairly safe assumption. Most people just don't want to step in the stuff. So if said owner had thought, "How would I want to be treated with regards to my dog's doody?" he would have cleaned it up.

It just goes to show you: Jesus just makes sense. You can take away the whole Son of God thing (I am NOT advocating doing that) and simply look at what He taught and see that life would just work better if we paid closer attention to the things He said:

  • Jesus said that the greatest love of all is not a Whitney Houston song, but rather when someone lays down their life for a friend (and then He backed it up). Our love for each other would be more pure, real, and true if we were more self-sacrificing and less self-serving.
  • Jesus said that how you look at a woman who is not your wife is the same as committing adultery. Consider how many marriages fall apart because of porn or 'harmless' office friendships, and you see how much His words just make sense.
  • Jesus had some strong words about money, including the interesting metaphor that it is harder for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to go to Heaven. Judging from the number of people that I saw buying Mega Millions lottery tickets the other day, it goes to show you how money can take a level of importance in people's lives it was never intended to hold.
  • Jesus said that when you hate someone, it's the same as murder. When someone really torques you, don't you have the tendency to assassinate their character?
Jesus' words should be heeded because He is the Son of God. But we should also pay attention because they simply make sense. Even with regards to dog poop.

What words of Jesus have you found to 'just make sense'?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

"You have a little something in your nose..."

I was talking with a girl at the high school the other day. In the midst of our conversation, she took off her head band and reset it on her head. When she did her hair was a bit, shall we say, sticky-uppy. Now, I had just met this girl, so we had no prior relationship. However, I hated the thought of this girl walking through the hallways of school with people snickering behind her back about her sticky-uppy hair. Maybe nobody would have, and I'm the only one who has evil thoughts about the public ridicule of people with sticky-uppy hair, but just in case I told her, "Your's kind of sticky-uppy." So she fixed it, asked me if it was better - which it was - and we went on with our conversation.

I generally try to be the kind of guy who will point out such things as sticky-uppy hair or boogers hanging out of people's noses. Why? Because I'm evil and long to embarrass people by pointing out their foibles? Not usually. But I figure that a true friend will tell someone, "Dude, you have a little something in your nose," to reduce the chances of that friend walking around all day with dried mucus hanging on while others get a good laugh at their expense. In reality, I am trying to save them from further embarrassment and ridicule. And I would hope others would do the same for me.

But I think a lot of people won't do this. I think that they think that they are somehow helping that person save face by not letting them know about their boogers or sticky-uppy hair. Or maybe they are worried that if they say something it will somehow damage the relationship by offending the booger-inflicted. Either way, they are doing a big disservice by saying nothing.

I have lots of boogers in my life. Not a lot in my nose, because I'm quite paranoid about hangers-on. But I have plenty of areas in my life that, if someone doesn't point them out, could cause me more problems down the road. So I need booger-pointer-outers in my life to save me from bigger, more harmful consequences. Having these people will do a few things:

It will keep me humble
Let's face it. I'm awesome. You know it, and I know it. If there's one thing I have no space for in my life it's humility. Like the prophet once said, "Oh Lord, it's hard to be humble / When you're perfect in every way."...Without people in my life who have the permission and feel the freedom to point out my foibles and shortcomings, I run the risk of having this exact attitude. As Timothy Keller notes, "We are more flawed and sinful than we ever dared believe..." Without a dose of humility in my life, I might forget this truth. Jesus' example was one of humility, so that is what I aim for.

It will point out my blind spots
I may think I am treating my wife well, but someone looking at us from the outside may see otherwise. I may think I am being attentive to my kids, but someone who knows me and spends time with us may have a different opinion. I may think that how I talk to people doesn't affect them negatively, but someone listening in may hear something else. I may have character flaws in my life that I simply don't see - like a booger in my nose - but that others do. Ignorance in this case is not bliss. I need to know those blind spots so they don't cause me any worse problems. (Side Note: For advice in avoiding blind spots in your car, see this from Car Talk)

It will make me better
In the long run, I want to be better: a better Christian, a better man, a better husband, a better father, a better youth pastor, a better co-worker, a better friend, a better neighbor. Getting better means eliminating the negative stuff in my life. So a friend who points out my metaphoric boogers is only helping me get to the finish line I want to cross because I am alerted to those things that I need to eliminate.

Who, in your life, is someone who can point out your 'boogers'? If you don't have someone, why not?

Monday, March 19, 2012

Do You Believe in God? Prove It!

I went for a walk today. As I walked, I listened to a podcast by Andy Stanley, the pastor of North Point Church in Atlanta. At a point during his message, a phrase popped into my head. (And no, he didn't say it or even hint at it, lest you think I am simply stealing his material) That phrase was this:

Our behavior reveals our theology.

I know, it's not earth-shattering. It's probably not even original. I probably heard it during some other podcast in the past and it's just now making its way out of my subconscious and into my conscious. But, I couldn't shake it. I tweeted it right away and decided to write about it in greater depth.

If you want to know what someone believes about God, you can ask them. But that will only tell you what they THINK they believe about God. If you want to know what they REALLY believe, you observe their behavior. That will tell you everything you need to know about what they believe about the character and nature of God.

A few examples to ponder:
  • Behavior: Stan refuses to give money to his church.
  • Theology: God is not capable of providing for me, so I have to do it myself.
  • Behavior: Albert spends a good portion of his time looking at airbrushed pictures of naked women on the internet.
  • Theology: Not everyone was created in God's image with a sense of dignity and value. Some people were created to simply be objects to ogle.
  • Behavior: Betsy is consumed by her physical appearance, especially as it relates to how guys look at her.
  • Theology: Not everyone was created in God's image with a sense of dignity and value. Some people have to earn it through the lens of others.
  • Behavior: Cory won't let anyone in his sphere of influence know that he is a Christian or talk about his relationship with Jesus.
  • Theology: A) Jesus isn't the only way to Heaven, and/or B) There really isn't a Hell.
  • Behavior: Sara owns a Bible, but only cracks it on occasion at church (and sometimes not even then because they have all the words on the giant screen behind the preacher).
  • Theology: God isn't all that concerned about my life and certainly doesn't have anything to say to little ol' me.
I could go on. You get the idea. This is not a matter or trying hard to be a good person, but simply the idea that what you believe about God will be revealed by your actions, like it or not.

How is your behavior betraying you by telling everyone what you really believe about God? (You probably shouldn't put your answer in the comments. That could be awkward for you.)

Friday, March 16, 2012

Do The Hard Thing

I just got back from a run.

Get up off the floor. Its not THAT shocking. This is not, "Elvis is alive and working at a Burger King in Kalamazoo." (BTW, that was a real rumor when I was a kid.) Granted, I haven't run much in the last year, but I have walked quite a bit and have been using the Gain Fit app on my iPhone since my Lenten commitment to avoid sloth. So it's not like I've been laying around eating Twinkies 16 hours a day...although that sounds pretty good right now.

I ran for the first half of my course then needed a break. I walked for a while, then decided for the rest of the run that I would run up the uphills and walk down the downhills. As I did this, I imagined a conversation with an imaginary friend. We'll call him Phil:

Me: So the last part of my run, I ran up the uphills and walked down the downhills.
Phil: Why?
Me: Why what?
Phil: Why would you walk down the easy part and run up the hard part? That seems, wrong word. Stupid.
Me: Because it just seemed that it would do me more good to do the thing that was hard rather than take it easy...although, I guess I was taking it easy since I wasn't running the whole way. But I didn't want my heart to explode or my legs to be rendered useless. But still, it was hard!

Isn't that so true in other areas of our lives? So often we avoid the hard thing because it is just that: HARD! But in so doing, we often miss out on the good we can only have by doing the hard thing:
  • We don't shut off our phones or computers at home because it is hard to unplug and miss out on prime time to build relationships with our kids and spouse.
  • We don't eat the right foods because it is hard to resist the double chocolate better-than-sin cheesecake and miss out on the opportunity to feel good and lose weight.
  • We don't get up early in the morning to spend time with God because it is hard to lose sleep and miss out on the intimacy that comes from that personal relationship.
  • We don't break up with him/her because it's always hard to break a heart and miss out on being free from an unhealthy relationship.
  • We don't talk with our friend about having a relationship with Jesus because it is hard to not have all the answers and miss out on an opportunity to participate in their faith journey and maybe leading them to Christ.
  • We don't give our money to the church or other places where it is needed because it is hard to part with cold, hard cash and miss out on being a part of something bigger than ourselves.
  • We don't have a difficult conversation with a loved one because it's hard to confront someone and miss out on the freedom from the 'I should've said' spectre.
  • We don't go on a mission trip because it would be hard to give up a week of vacation and miss out on the joy of being used by God in a significant way.
This is NOT to say to simply do something hard because it will always result in something good. Cutting off your leg with a butter knife would be hard, but wouldn't necessarily result in something good. But many good things in life come only as a result of doing the hard thing.

1 Corinthians 9:24-27: Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! 25 All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. 26 So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. 27 I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.

What good thing do you wish to attain? What is the hard thing you need to do to get there?

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Leadership Lessons from the NFL Draft

In just under two months, the Super Bowl for the Cleveland Browns will commence. It's called the NFL Draft. Being a Browns fan, this is one of the biggest sporting events each year as maybe, just maybe, THIS will be the Draft that turns things around for them (granted, we're still waiting for that to happen). And with the big prize being RGIII from Baylor, the excitement is palpable.

But this post is not about the Browns, but rather the Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings are slated to pick #3 in the Draft, right between the Rams at #2 and the Browns at #4. At the present time, there is all sorts of speculation and conjecture about what the Rams will do at #2. It is virtually guaranteed that a team - Cleveland, Washington, and Miami being the most likely suitors - will sacrifice several draft picks for the right to move up to that #2 position in order to draft RGIII, the electric QB from Baylor. At least one writer hopes that it ends up being the Browns.

What does that have to do with Minnesota and leadership? As it turns out, quite a bit.

In week 16 of the 2011 season, the Vikings beat the Washington Redskins 33-26. After the game, head coach Leslie Frazier seemed quite pleased with the results. The problem with that is that, by winning, the Vikings improved their record enough to move into the 3rd slot of the Draft instead of the 2nd. That being said, by winning that one meaningless game in December they missed out on an opportunity to pick up perhaps three first-round picks and probably more. As it stands instead, they will likely get a nice offensive lineman. Offensive linemen are good, but one of them compared to the haul of quality players they could have had certainly pales in comparison. Which raises the question:

Should they have tanked the season?

One writer suggests that winning that game was the worst thing the Vikings did with regards to the upcoming draft.

Would it have been better leadership to maybe put a gameplan in place to give them a better chance of losing and a better draft choice?


A leader needs to know his current context and be able to look far down the road and see how the decisions he makes now will affect the long-term stability and quality of the organization. And if it would benefit the organization in the long run to make difficult decisions to sacrifice the good for the better, he must make those decisions.

OK, I'll admit it, I've never been an NFL player or head coach (not that this is news to anyone), and I don't know what I would have done in that particular position. But as a leader, part of my job is to look far down the road, not just at the task in front of me. I need to be able to see the preferred future and make decisions based on that, not on what will bring immediate gratification. If that means making decisions that tick people off or that look like the completely wrong decisions in the present, I still have to be able to pull the trigger. Jesus saw the long distance view when He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, "Not my will, but Yours be done." His immediate right decision would have been to call on angels to save Him, but the preferred future called for a different, far more difficult decision. He sacrificed the good for the better. And that is what we must do as leaders.

What good present thing must you sacrifice for the your better future or that of your organization?