Greatness Just Is

Several years ago, I was with my family at the airport trying to get on a flight that was oversold and it didn’t look like it was going to happen. They issued a boarding pass but then took it back. The way it played out left us literally standing at the gate with our luggage in hand ready to head down the ramp at a moment’s notice. My dad had dropped us off at the airport and was waiting in the baggage claim area outside of security, watching through the glass. I looked over at him as we waited at the gate and realized that his oversight was a great comfort.

There he was, standing patiently and watching to see if we were going to get on. Nothing particularly dramatic about it, but it was a great snapshot of what he has done for me my entire life. He’s been there, watching and waiting, ready to help if needed. There was nothing he could do about getting me on that flight so it wasn’t a matter of fixing things for me. It was his presence that was the offering which brought me comfort. He’s a great dad.

The power of presence is often underrated. Just being there offers confidence, security and support among other things and is the greatest gift we can often offer another. In fact, just being there and supporting when there is nothing else we can do to “fix” something is the kind of love that allows those that we love to work through things with the comfort of knowing that if they can’t work it out they still won’t be alone. It assures them of a place at the table of family and community which allows for living.

My Dad is always there. I can walk with the comfort of His presence even when He is letting me work through the details of my choices and the consequences of those choices from a safe observation point. The oversight and invite are an assurance of my place in the world during times when the world seems to offer no place. The consistency of His offering is that when I draw nearer, there is a peace in the middle of the questions of life. There is acceptance among rejection and strength for the next step. He’s a great Dad.

Fear Produces Control Where Love Allows for Wisdom

The other day, I was talking to one of my kids and decided to give them some counsel about some things to look out for. From all appearances, it could be viewed as pretty good parenting. Maybe, to some degree, it was. The problem wasn’t so much the counsel I was giving, it was the driver I was reacting to.

I realized later that night and into the next morning that the reason I chose to speak into the situation (which wasn’t really a situation yet, just the thought of what might become) was that I was afraid. Fear had driven me to warn and counsel where there was an imagination of what might be someday, somehow. Fear is not a healthy driver.

I could have given the exact same advice in the exact same situation and been doing it from love, but I wasn’t. Not this time, anyway. That next morning, I realized the distinction and spent time in prayer receiving the Father’s love. His love casts out fear. I prayed to realize His love for me and for my family, too. His love is the perfect driver.

When our children are small, we have a greater chance of controlling the environments they are exposed to and protecting them from potential threats. Increasingly, however, as they grow they are exposed to the potential of danger and evil as they mature in their ability to relate beyond the controlled environments of their youth. That’s scary. The stuff out there that is intended for their harm is real and active in its pursuit.

We can’t control everything for our kids for ourselves and, at the same time, we don’t have to be afraid. The control we thought we had was a bit of an illusion in the first place as we can never control all possible circumstances to mitigate all possible threats.

We have to rely on love, and not only our love, but the love of the Father. It’s His love that supersedes our fears and feeds our wisdom when we operate from healthy emotions. Unhealthy emotions like fear and worry won’t allow for wisdom as they seek to control. Healthy reactions like trust and faith from knowing the love of the Father gives way to His wisdom in where the boundaries need to be drawn and allows Holy Spirit to counsel us situation by situation.

Legacy is Created by Personal Investment

chuckI learned through Facebook that a soccer coach and mentor of mine from middle school died last week. Although we had not been in touch for decades, I grieved when I heard of his death, which was described as “unexpected.” It caught me off guard that the news impacted me like it did.

When I texted my sister of his death, she texted back, “That so sad; he was a great man.” I agreed with her and wondered further about how we both concluded that despite our disconnection from him for such a long time. I concluded that our disconnection actually affirmed his greatness as the connection that was present decades ago had that kind of lasting impact.

Chuck Blische not only coached soccer, he invested in people. He connected on a personal level and gave himself away. At least that’s what he did for me. He gave me what he had; he gave me himself.

I also remember spending extensive time with him as he prepared me, trained me and worked with me as a soccer referee. I started to realize that the lessons he delivered via soccer have carried over into many other areas of my life.

I was a 14-year-old kid learning how to officiate soccer games on a small army post in Germany. Chuck taught me more than the rules, he taught me leadership. He taught me that the referee has to be in control of the game but the game can’t be about him. He taught me that authority did not equate to arrogance and respect for others would bring greater results than the whistle and a red card. He not only told me these things, but he modeled them and he released me to exercise and grow in them.

Greatness is determined by what we do with people. We will be remembered, or not, by the people we invested in or didn’t. No matter who or what you invested in three decades ago, there is somebody in your life today that needs what you have. Don’t just tell them; show them. Take time with them and let them try. When they try, cheer them on and when they are ready, release them to do without you. You aren’t only investing in them, you are investing in your legacy. Just like Chuck did.

Thanks, Chuck. I miss you more now than I did for the past three decades and I realize now more than ever what you have done for me.

Children Don’t Interrupt Our Purpose; They Embody It

photo 2-1croppedA few months ago I was preaching and something outside of the ordinary occurred. My wife and daughter were traveling so it was just our eight year old son and I at church. He got up in the middle of the sermon and walked up to the front. I was surprised to see him, but not at all upset with his interruption.

“Hey, are you OK?” I asked.

“Yes,” he replied, “I just want to give you a hug.”

Of course I hugged him and asked him, “do you want to stay up here or go sit back down?”

“I’ll go sit back down,” he concluded.

That was it. Simple and sweet and child like. As I reflected on this interaction, I was thankful that the place we go to church is an environment where it wasn’t weird even through it was abnormal. As everyone was watching, a pause to interact with my son was natural. I hope and believe he felt no sense of shame or guilt for the interruption and saw me first and foremost as his dad.

I don’t want my kids to think ministry is more important than them because they are my most important ministry. I do this for a living now, but no vocation takes the place of our primary calling as disciple makers to our children. The practical details of how to walk that out are not always easy or obvious, so the heart of intention better be.

Someone shared with Julie that interruption for a hug was a picture of how God receives us. I like that and am thankful for the ministry that apparently occurred from this simple act. I didn’t, however, intend to minister to others as I received my son. I simply received him because I love him. He was my first priority in that moment, even though it took me by surprise that he had a need or a want in that particular moment.

We aren’t always going to get it right with parenting. There are demands and variables that challenge our desires regarding our children. Many of us have times and areas of parenting which leave us feeling inadequate. I know that I do.

I pray today that the spontaneous reaction of that day be a picture of meeting my kids in the moment every day. I pray that I always stop to make them first over any others that also may need ministry. I pray they always know that they are my ministry, no matter what demands my vocation may present.

Promotion Through the Gifts of Others

blue-door-1452666524jQAYears ago when I was working in corporate America, we did annual performance reviews and had to identify three areas of improvement for every employee. In many cases, the same weakness or opportunity for improvement showed up year after year. No matter how many times it was pointed out, the action plans and coaching never changed some specific traits.

All people just aren’t good at some things. There is no amount of encouragement that can remedy the deficiency of their design. The net result is wasted time focusing on areas that were never intended to be strengths instead of releasing the gifts to run without restraint. Nobody is happier or more motivated when being beat down about stuff they are not good at than when the unique gifts they possess are recognized, received and released.

Proverbs 18:16 says, “A man’s gift makes room for him and brings him before the great.” There is a definite benefit to giftedness. The gifts that God has put in our design are the things that facilitate our path towards our destiny.

I suppose that can mean a present like a candle holder or something. It can also mean the gifts that an individual’s abilities, when offered for the service of others, can make a way for them. The end result of selfless offering of the abilities that we possess is that we are afforded access to others that are great.

What about if we view that from the other perspective? What about if we consider that the receipt of the gifts promotes us into greater greatness? What if looking for, affirming, receiving and releasing the gifts in others is what makes us great in the first place?

Identifying and encouraging the gifts that are inherent in others requires several things:

  • Vision – to see what God has done in them and agree with Him
  • Humility – to allow for them to be more prominent than us in their area of giftedness
  • Courage – to trust them in their strengths exposes areas that may be weak in us

Vision, humility and courage sounds like a pretty good recipe for greatness. Others will want to serve us with their gifts when we want to release them in their giftedness. We will be facilitators of the destiny God intends for people when we receive their gifts and encourage their purpose. In the process, we can walk in the greatness we are designed for.



The Sacrifice Out Front

McDowell County, WV, August 17, 2001 -- Crews clear brush on this mountaintop in preparation of constructing a 40-acre site for emergency housing. Photo by Butch DuCote/FREMA News PhotoThere was a point in time several years ago that Julie and I were facing a significant decision regarding our future. We were contemplating a move to Virginia and I was struggling to embrace what appeared to be right for us. We were facing significant change as our business was unwinding and what was next was up in the air. We sought counsel from a friend who asked us two pivotal questions.

“Scott,” he asked, “what if this move is entirely for Julie’s benefit? Would you be OK with that?”

I didn’t event hesitate and I’m not proud to report that my immediate answer was, “no.” I didn’t want to move and I needed a job. If we were going there for something that wasn’t going to meet our needs nor my wants, I selfishly and truthfully didn’t want to go.

“Julie,” our friend asked, “do you trust Scott?”

“Absolutely. I’ve never trusted anyone more,” Julie responded just as quickly without as much as a blink.

Wow. How embarrassing. I was all about me and my preferences and she was completely affording me the privilege of trust despite my lack of credentials to affirm her choice.

In marriage, those are the two questions. Ephesians tells us that the husband is the “head,” which many believe means “leader.” If it meant leader, it would say leader. It means head.

Leaders are based on position and performance. The head is based on identity and purpose. The purpose of the head is to make a way for those that are submitted. Submission is not an inferior position of subjection, it is an honored position of benefit. The head sacrifices for the benefit of the submitted.

“Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him.” (Genesis 2:18)

If we choose to interpret “helper” as inferior, then we forget that Jesus said He didn’t come to be served, but to serve. Helper is a royal identity. Interestingly, the word at the end of Genesis 2:18, “him,” means “in front of.” Out front is a place the makes a way for others. It’s a sacrificial posture of service and protection for the benefit of any that would submit. Submission seeks a sacrifice.

We went to Virginia and it was right and good for that season. It wasn’t entirely for Julie, but only because God is too good and too dynamic to limit His favor like that. We all benefitted and perhaps the greatest benefit of all was the change within me that changed my answer. Now if I’m asked “what if it is entirely for her benefit,” I’m able to say, “yes.”