Thanksgiving Changes Everything

Tomorrow we celebrate and remember as we give thanks. The opportunity we seize is available every day. If we choose to extend our appreciation beyond a November day, we will enjoy the benefits of a posture prone to betterment.

Thanks is available as a remedy despite challenges; not submitting to them. Where there are difficulties in our circumstances, faith and hope may be required to accompany thanks. Hope does not disappoint.

Hope defeats despair and provides fuel for transforming. Moving from the present reality to the future promise requires agreement in the form of hope.

By contrast, where there is abundance and blessings, recognition of their Source affords us the humility to be entrusted. When we are thankful, there is a posture of dependency which defers glory. Glory properly attributed gives way to glory multiplied.

Either condition, difficulty or decadence, is a gift for the development of our soul. When we can submit our mind, will and emotions in thanksgiving to the One that changes everything, He will change us for the better.

Freedom is a Process

I was watching an old television show recently in which the bad guy got off on a technicality. He had committed a crime, but the police circumvented the legal process in the accumulation of evidence and the bad guy was set free to do more bad things.

In the practice of criminal law, the question usually isn’t whether they did it or not; it’s whether or not there is evidence to prove it. To some, this can be frustrating as the obvious guilt of an individual calls out for justice. Technicalities, procedure and process seem like a distraction from the point. In fact, respect for liberty requires the process. This is the design of our legal system.

Freedom requires a process. We can’t enjoy the fullness of freedom unless we are willing to go through the process. The uncovering of bondage, hurt and hang-ups is necessary for the realization of freedom, healing and release. This is God’s design.

To get to greater realizations of God’s love, grace and fellowship, we sometimes have to examine the void. We have to look into the areas of our lives where He is not manifest. In those inspections, we will find the opportunities for new glory.

This can be frustrating. Why would a mature follower of Jesus still have to examine their soul? Why would deacons, elders, pastors and other leaders need to go back to square one from time to time? To respect the process; that’s why.

The process is one of exchange. Redemption requires possession and the things that we want to change must be realized to be possessed. Once they are acknowledged and owned, they can be turned in for what is better.

We are all invited into new glory and the new glory is from an infinite Source. There is no end to the goodness and glory of God, so there is no end to the process for us. None of us are exempted from God’s goodness so none of us are afforded the disservice of opting out of the process. The process is the way to realize the freedom.

Order facilitates freedom and freedom facilitates glory. Consider where you are in the process today and ask God if there is more glory that He wants to unleash in your life. As He reveals things that He wants to make new, go there. Embrace the process.

The Lens of Grace (from Abundant and Free)

I was raised by an Army officer  and eventually became an Army officer myself. There are many good things about growing up or training in that environment. At the same time, there is a lens through which those so trained see people that can make life difficult. When the mission is critical, judgment of others can be, as well. There can be harsh, rigid assessment of people based on their performance and contribution to the mission.

After my time as an Army officer, I eventually went to law school, passed the bar, took the oath and for a season made a living standing in courtrooms arguing cases. As an advocate, I continually viewed people and their stories through my law knowledge filter. I applied that filter to things that led to the disposition of the question in the case as well as procedures compared to the rules of admission. If the opposing party tried to get inadmissible evidence into the record or question a witness in a way not allowed, I would object. It was part of my duty to my client.

Even though I no longer argue cases in a courtroom, I find myself sometimes thinking like an attorney. I don’t think the word “objection,” but often form a thought regarding something or someone I find “objectionable.”

In doing so, I make a case against another person in my mind. This is particularly true when I perceive the other person has a responsibility to behave a certain way.

The judgment I pronounce is a revelation of the lens through which I see people. I’ve discovered I turn that same lens on myself. I struggle to be satisfied with anything less than excellence, so I struggle to be satisfied. I compare my behaviors, performance, accomplishments and the evidence of my success to an external standard and make a case against myself.

“You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things” (Romans 12:2).

The judgment I form against others is the standard for the judgment I form against myself. Where I compare them to expectations, I hold myself to those same expectations. Where I give grace, I am able to receive grace. I see people through a lens, and like it or not, that lens is the same for me.

“For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17)

Because of Jesus, we have a choice: We can labor under the yoke of the law or we can submit to the reins of the truth. Jesus replaced the law with the truth, because the law is a subsection of the truth. The truth is the broader reality. We no longer need the law because Jesus is the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

Grace is the lens through which we are invited to view the truth. We either see through Moses or through Jesus; therefore, we see ourselves either as guilty or forgiven and will see others as we see ourselves. If you want to know what you think of yourself, consider how you think of others.

From Abundant and Free; Seeing Life Through the Lens of Grace, now available on Amazon.com. 

He’s Not Your Baby

One day as I was checking the docket at the courthouse, a woman approached me and asked where a particular courtroom was. She went on to explain that she was nervous because her son was scheduled to appear on a possession of marijuana charge.

“Why does that make you nervous?” I asked.

“He could go to jail,” she said.

“Did you drive here today?” I asked. After confirming that she had driven her son to the courthouse, I responded by encouraging her, saying “Well, if he goes to jail, just drive home.”

“But he’s my baby,” she explained.

“How old is he?” I asked. After learning her son was 19, I told her bluntly but as kindly as possible, “He’s not your baby. He’s a grown man.”

It was about that time her son joined us. “Is this him?” I asked, and she affirmed it was.

“Listen,” I said, turning my attention to him, “you are not a child anymore. Smoking weed and getting your mom to drive you to court are childish. You are a man, you are equipped to be a man and it’s time to start being a man. When I was a child, I acted like one, but when I became a man, I put childish things behind me. It’s time for you to do the same; you are a man and you are capable of putting childish things away.”

This young man’s shoulders straightened up, his eyes locked in and everything about his body language accepted the reality I was presenting him. His mom, at the same time, looked terrified. It was clear she was much less ready for him to be a man than he was.

I don’t know what happened with his court case, but whatever consequences he had to deal with were a benefit to him. A misdemeanor on his record is a small price to pay if he was able to allow the consequence to draw him into responsibility.

Love allows for consequences because consequences allow for repentance. When we have to deal with the implications of our immaturity and/or depravity, we are more aware of the goodness of God. From the place of pain that results from our rebellion or immaturity, we get to choose. We can either choose to submit our lives to the goodness of God or maintain our rebellious attempts of making our own way. The choice to submit our lives back to the goodness of God is much more appealing when we have tried it without Him and are facing the reality of our choices.

We all mess up, but what we do is not who we are. Don’t rescue people from their consequences and don’t believe their mistakes are who they are any more than your mistakes are who you are. The kindness of the Lord leads to repentance, not the sloppy compassion or harsh judgment we may offer in its place.

It’s graceful to let people realize grace by letting them deal with their own consequences. The realization of grace is born of fire, and fire burns every time. Let it happen. We aren’t doing others any favors by being less than honest in our relationships. Honesty includes the willingness to allow others to choose as well as to experience the results of their choices.

From “Abundant and Free; Seeing Life Through the Lens of Grace” now available on Amazon.

Honor Makes a Way for Solutions to Disagreements

Last night, the Dallas Cowboys stood together. More accurately, they knelt together. They knelt together in a sign of protest against racism in the United States, and they did it before the National Anthem. As a reminder, that is what all the kneeling was about in the first place, although it has been largely forgotten in the politics and opinions.

In case you didn’t see it or hear about it they came out as a team, joined arms and knelt. Then they stood up. They knelt before the National Anthem ever began and they stood up during the national anthem.

All along, the objection to the protest has been that protestors should stand and respect the flag. Last night, they did. Yet, in an overnight poll in the Dallas Morning News, the initial opinions offered were that 54% of respondents felt “Cowboys should not have knelt at all.” This was a Dallas newspaper, mind you, so this is a biased sampling presumably in favor of what the Cowboys do. I don’t know what the sampling size was, but that result is disheartening.

This poll showed that for some, it was never about the flag in the first place. It was about being right. For some, they aren’t patriotic as much as they are just prejudiced. When you don’t want somebody that is different from you to say anything about their perception or experience based in those differences, you are protecting the status quo, not the traditions surrounding the flag.

We tend to like what we like and want what we want and will often find justifications to protect our preferences. Our preferences are rooted in our perspective and our perspective is limited to our experiences. Those experiences, in this nation, are vastly different. Experiences surrounding race and racism cannot be the same where the there are differences in race. It’s just not possible.

The opportunity going forward is honor. I’ve been a Dallas Cowboys fan for the past four decades, but my admiration of their collective voice last night isn’t about winning or losing. It’s about honor. They were able to show honor towards the flag while also projecting the voice of the perspective that was calling out. They were able to agree about disagreements that they had not all experienced. That’s what the flag stands for, in part; the freedom to be heard in an honorable way.

When 54% say there should be no disagreement at all, there is going to be disagreement. If and when the majority can agree that the experience of the minority is different from their own, then there can be solutions. Honor makes a way for solutions to disagreements.

Getting Out of Jail

When I was serving as a mentor in the youth prison system, one of the things that those teenage boys shared in common was that they had been (or were) members of gangs. We were in a small group discussion and there was a revelation for one of those young men when he said something like, “you know, I think I joined a gang because I wanted to feel loved. ”  What led him to that realization was that we were able to connect the dots of dysfunction he had experienced in his own family.

His family was a mess so he went to the gang to fulfill the voids left by a broken family. Being a member of a gang was a perverted fulfillment of a legitimate need.

On a different occasion, another young man shared about a time when he and his fellow gang members were preparing for a retaliatory drive by shooting against another gang. I stopped him and asked, “what does the preparation look like; sitting around with drugs and alcohol, talking about who would drive, who would sit where, who would carry which weapons, etc.?” He said that was about right.

I pressed in on this and tried for figure out why a 15 or 16-year-old would be driven to put themselves into harm’s way such as that. What was the motivator?

We went back and forth and ended up at purpose. They did it because they saw it as an extension of the purposes of the gang. They didn’t care about school or work, just gang business along with street credibility and reputation. When a gang threatened them, it threatened the community which facilitated their purpose. Purpose is a legitimate need and this was a perverted fulfillment of that need.

They are no different from the rest of us, really. The contrast of their perverted attempts to fulfill legitimate needs is more glaring than many of us experience. At the core, however, we are the same. There are things we need and if we buy into lies that lead to illegitimate attempts to fulfill legitimate needs, we end up in some form of trouble.

We will enjoy the consequences or benefits of whichever path we pursue. Where we pursue legitimate fulfillment through the One that designed us with the legitimate needs, we will know the benefits of satisfaction. Where we take shortcuts or detours, we will have to deal with the consequences.

Those young men were not serving life sentences and neither are we. Where we miss, we can change our minds. We don’t have to stay in the incarceration of our poor choices forever, but getting out of those internal prisons comes with the discipline of one day at a time. One day at a time, seeking Jesus where we have depended on our own form of gang to replace Him and His family.