What Kind of Old Man Will You Be?

Jack Hayford

Last week I was walking through a store with my family and I recognized a fellow shopper as Jack Hayford (pastor, author, songwriter). I introduced myself and he was as kind and gracious as a person could be. He’s 78 years old and looks great.

Like a star-struck teenage girl after a Jonas Brother’s Concert, I immediately tweeted “I just met Jack Hayford!” Immediately, a couple of people responded sharing how his ministry had impacted them or their family in a profound way.

Zig Ziglar

Yesterday, Zig Ziglar died at age 86. I’ve listened to so many of his podcasts and love how he motivated people with a common-sense approach and constant humor. But more than his incredible success, I was impressed that he seemed to be a kind and gracious man.

I’ve decided that one of my goals in life is to become a kind and gracious old man.

I’m guessing kind and gracious old men prioritize God first, are family-focused, hard working, helping others and quick forgivers accompanied by a joy for life.

Maybe you can add to this list?

I admire these men and am grateful for their example.

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

I entered the U.S. Air Force in June, 1992. Bill Clinton was elected as President later that year. As President, he worked to pass the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy for the military in reference to gay military service members.

As a paralegal, I saw the angst in the military legal system as they wrestled with how to proceed with this brand new, confusing policy. It was confusing because it remained illegal to serve in the military as a “public homosexual” but it was legal to serve as a “closet homosexual” (very punny right?).  As you know, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” basically means “don’t talk about it”.

Many Christians operate their spiritual life with the same approach: “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”. The thinking is, “I’ve got lots of flaws but I’m going to act like I’m flawless.” I just won’t talk about what’s really going on inside of me.

The “Christian Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” approach creates incredible confusion because we want to grow our faith but we struggle . . . secretly.

Maybe your struggle is with alcohol, a temper, unforgiveness, fear, lust, pride, greed, insecurity, guilt, or broken dreams. Over time, you’ve learned how to practice “image management”. You know how to avoid talking about it.

But here’s what I know about you. You’re broken and imperfect. So am I. Yet, your struggle is the place where God can be most glorified in your life.

Yesterday, I was leading a Starting Point Small Group. (BTW, if your church doesn’t offer an on-campus small group for seekers, starters, and returners please consider it. People are looking for more than a class, they’re searching for community.) As part of this group, each participant shares their story. It’s incredible!

Yesterday, was our 10th and final group meeting. Two of the adults hadn’t shared their story and I wasn’t expecting them to at this point.

But yesterday one of the two surprisingly decided to share. She shared for several minutes and it was powerful. Through tears she shared incredible pain and brokenness. At the end of her story, I thought, “Another incredible story”. But then something happened I didn’t expect.

The other adult who hadn’t shared spoke up. While sobbing, she looked at the lady who’d just shared and said, “Thank you for sharing that. I’ve never shared my story with anyone. You and I share the same hurt. Your story made me realize that I’m not alone. Thanks to you, I’m now closer to one day sharing my story.” You could’ve heard a pen drop in that room.

Wow! You should’ve seen the smile on the face of the lady who’d just bravely shared her story for the first time. She witnessed God using her story immediately. Better yet, I sensed she realized that some of the power from her own guilt was removed since it was no longer a “secret” and she was no longer practicing “image management”.

There is no ideal community. Community is made up of people with all their richness, but also with their weakness and poverty, of people who accept and forgive each other, who are vulnerable with each other. Humility and trust are more at the foundation of community than perfection. More than anything else, God uses people to heal people. John Ortberg (Everybody’s Normal Till You Get to Know Them)

How about you? Are you sharing? Are you in community? Do you have someone with whom you can be transparent? Reject the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” approach.

Showing my Mom our New Home

Yesterday my Mom flew to SoCal to spend Thanksgiving week with our family. This is the first time someone from my family has visited since we moved here one year ago, so we’re having a blast showing off our new home.

We took my Mom to Hollywood’s Grauman’s Chinese Theater, drove down Rodeo Dr. in Beverly Hills, went onto the Santa Monica Pier, and then drove down the PCH enjoying a beautiful ocean sunset on our way to Malibu for dinner. This was our first day together.

It is so much fun revealing a beautiful area to someone you love.

That got me to thinking. Imagine the hosts in Heaven right now. They’re enjoying never-before-seen physical beauty, an environment of constant love and peace, and the presence of God the Father.

At times their minds must imagine the day when you enter Heaven and they finally get to “show you around”. I bet that first day in Heaven will be pretty jam-packed don’t you?

The right question to ask when something goes wrong

When something goes wrong you will naturally want to ask “why”. However, leaders learn to focus on a better question. When something goes wrong, the question you focus on can be the difference between effectively moving forward and becoming paralyzed.

Ever watched an athlete argue with the referee during a play despite the action continuing around them? As a fan, it’s almost comical to watch the athlete become completely distracted while the play unfolds behind them making themselves temporarily “useless”.

I’ve been guilty of this in my own life. Several years ago, after experiencing a significant ministry hurt, for too long I focused on trying to discover “why” it happened.

When something goes wrong in your life, you’re tempted to get overly-focused on asking God “why”. Like the athlete arguing the call in the middle of the play, our attention is on the wrong thing.

I’ve learned that there’s a much better question to ask.

This week I read the story of Andy Stanley starting North Point Community Church. It started on the heels of a church split, alleged betrayal, a high profile divorce, and extremly high family tension. You can read about it HERE.

Here’s what struck me. Despite all of the hurt, neither man became overly-focused on the “why” question. Instead, they were able to move forward because they focused on a better question. They focused on “what” they should do next.

I’ve heard Andy share how emotionally difficult this season of life was for him and his family. Yet somehow, he and Dr. Stanley focused more on “what” they should do instead of “why” difficult things were happening.

Today, Charles Stanley continues to lead a mega-church and a global ministry while Andy Stanley’s North Point averages 33,000 in weekly attendance and even more in weekly small groups.

Twenty years ago they were tempted to ask “why” but they focused on “what”. That’s what leaders do. Leaders focus less on “why” something bad happened and more on “what” they should do next.

Which question has your attention?

Maybe you’ve been chopped-blocked, illegally held, or blocked in the back. You’re frustrated that the “referee” seems to have missed an obvious call. You’ve asked “why” but you haven’t received an answer.

At this point, arguing the call makes you “useless” for the current play.

Since you believe that God has an eternal plan and that it’s good, focus on the “what”. Accept the reality of today. Then ask yourself, “What can I do next?” Then do that. In fact, put all of your energy into doing that.

“Why” focuses on the past. “What” focuses on the present/future. “Why” is mostly negative. “What” is mostly positive.

Today, focus on the “what” instead of the “why”.

3 Stages of Authenticity

I loved playing peek-a-boo with my kids when they were little. If you’re a parent, you’ve done that too.

As my children became pre-schooler’s they constantly said, “Look at me Dad! I’m doing something spectacular!” (Like singing a song, drawing a circle, or eating dog food.) They were embracing life and wanted to experience more of it.

However, as children enter middle school they begin passing notes to friends asking, “Do you like me?” Suddenly, they are unsure and begin to retreat and hide.

The deep desire that you and I always share is to know and be known.

Our problem is not original with us. Adam and Eve had a perfect relationship until their sin resulted in the Fall. After his sin, Adam heard God’s footsteps approaching from the distance and for the first time in his life instead of running to God, Adam ran away from God. This is when the activity of peek-a-boo was first introduced.

As adults we play peek-a-boo with our authenticity. It’s easier to hide from others or try to impress others. We hide from or try to impress people with: sarcasm, intelligence, spirituality, shyness, busyness/success, superficial conversation, etc..

In his book, “Everybody’s Normal Till You Get to Know Them”, John Ortberg reveals the 3 stages of greater authenticity:

 1) Guarded Communication

This is when your neighbor brings over a homemade-from-scratch hot dog casserole and then later asks, “How was it?” You say, “It was something else. We ate it and enjoyed it. Thank you.”

No need to be ungrateful and rudely blunt.

How about you? Do you practice guarded communication?

2) Everyday Authenticity

Some people struggle trying to impress. Some people struggle with fear of rejection.

Everyday authenticity is where you unveil your face.

My wife is a natural at this. Ginger is comfortable not wearing makeup and not having to always wear the latest fashion. She is honest about the cleanliness of our house at any given moment. In fact, she is honest about any weakness she has. It’s one of the things I love about her.

Me . . . not so much. I’m often too guarded, measuring my words and the image I’m projecting. I want to grow in this area.

How about you? Are you an “everyday authentic” person?

 3) Deep Disclosure with a few trusted friends

Some people don’t share with anyone. Some people share with everyone. Both are unhealthy.

Deep disclosure requires trusted friends. Trusted friends shouldn’t be judgmental, violate confidentiality, or offer premature advice.

Do you have a person or a small group of people where you can safely share the deep stuff? If not, what steps do you need to take to develop a relationship with a trusted friend or small group of trusted friends?

Let’s save the peek-a-boo for the kids. 🙂

Blogging update

Mondays & Thursdays. Those are the new days I’ll be posting new blogs.

I’ve been blogging 3 times a week for the last 14 months. However, I’m about to begin a new project and will need to invest time into it. (More details on it in the months ahead.)

In the meantime, I look forward to seeing you every Monday and Thursday.

Speak up

“I’ve always been afraid that people would think I’m horrible if they knew about my sin.”

Yesterday my friend got on stage and shared his “biggest sin” with more than a hundred men at a Men’s Retreat. I think he was a little nervous. Who wouldn’t be?

His sin lead to a big, public failure that left many broken relationships in its wake. Feeling “finished” and disillusioned, he moved from the East Coast to the West Coast to “start over”.

Fifteen years later, he has rekindled his relationship with God and yesterday he decided to “go public” about his past sin/failure.

After he shared yesterday, I asked my friend, “How do you feel now?” He said, “I’ve always been afraid that people would think I’m horrible if they knew about my sin.” I could hear his chains falling and sense his healing taking place.

Needless to say, my friend’s authenticity encouraged a bunch of men and God was honored.

If you’re honest, you’re resistant to tell someone about your struggle because you’re afraid of what they’ll think. Let me encourage you to go deep with someone you can trust. Neither of you will have to ever carry your struggles alone.

Satan loves secrets. God encourages transparency.

Your freedom and healing are waiting. Develop a relationship(s) that allows you to speak up.

Focused on a little bee causing a big wreck

Earlier this week I was driving and noticed a bee flying around in my car. I was by myself and I began trying to make sure it didn’t get on me but then the evil insect began flying around my head. I put all four windows down hoping to coax it into leaving my vehicle. In the mayhem, I realized I was veering into another lane. I quickly corrected and thought “this bee is not worth focusing on to the point I have a wreck.” Eventually, it flew out.

Sometimes things come up unexpectantly and, like a bee flying around your head, you’re tempted to give these critical/urgent things all of your attention.

You’re tempted to replace the important with the urgent by:

pursuing short-term goals at work (bee) is never worth wrecking your family due to neglect

worried more about your reputation with others (bee) than your relationship w/God

dwelling on a disagreement (bee) rather the value of a long-term relationship

The important things in life are your relationships and your faith. Don’t wreck a relationship or your faith because you’re focused on a bee.

Check a box but guard your heart today

Today, we’ll tell one family they can’t live at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and we’ll tell another family they can . . . temporarily.

Isn’t that odd? This presidential election is a choice between two men and two visions. However, either direction is temporary.

In January, two families will move their families across the country or won’t based solely on which box more pencils check today. Then four years later we’ll re-decide.

There are impossibly high expectations and hope placed on the POTUS.

So today one man will receive my vote but a different man already owns my hope.

My hope is in the One who “early voted” for me, whose permanent residence will one day be mine, whose term never expires, and whose promises all come true.

“Our hope is not in the man we put in the White House but in the Man we put on the cross.” – Rick Warren

My vote is temporary. My hope is permanent.

I pray for myself too much . . . maybe you do too

If every prayer you prayed last week had been answered, would anyone other than you be better off?

If you’re like me, the subject of your prayer is usually you. The theme of your prayer is usually safety. (Although we use terms like “hedge of protection”, “go before us”, and “have your hand on us”.)

There’s nothing wrong with this.

Yet there seems to be a discrepancy between the size of our God and the size of our prayers. We know God can move mountains but we ask him to help us push around a grain of sand. Do your prayers tap into the power of God?

What’s the boldest prayer you’ve prayed in 2012?

“Now unto him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.” Eph. 3:20

The 1st century Christians prayed differently. Read one of their amazing prayers in Acts 4:24-31. Considering their lives were in peril, this prayer was extremely bold.

21st century prayers focus on “me” and “safety”. 1st century prayers focused on “others” and “boldness”.

If the prayers you pray today are answered, make sure someone other than you will be better off. Oh yeah, and be bold!