In Pursuit of Greatness

We were all born with shortcomings and limitations, but those same faults declare the glory and greatness of our potential. We are limited only by surrender to our limitations or abdication of our identity. Our destiny can be hijacked by either frustrated surrender to defeat or premature declaration of victory.

The journey is within us, not in the product of our efforts. Products come from raw materials and the raw materials of our destiny is in the ingredients of our character. Our character is composed of our soul and our soul is in need of transformation. If we’ll stay the course and allow for the transformation, we can reach the destiny of our design.

We buried my father at the end of last year. His was a life well lived and the declaration of his eulogy was that he was “the greatest man who I have ever known.” That declaration was only timely in a eulogy; anything prior to that is too soon.

My father’s greatness was a transformative process and the greatness he exhibited is available to us all. The eulogy we are crafting will be graceful to look past our flaws and proclaim our achievement to the extent that we are not defeated by our flaws nor impressed with our achievement before our greatness is ripe.

We are not intended to declare our wisdom or greatness, “But wisdom is proved right by all her children.” (Luke 7:35)

It’s the impact we make in the lives of others that declares our greatness. It’s the fruit of our investment in them that affirms us. As that investment is being made, it would be untimely to stop for the recognition of us as that would shift the effort from selfless to selfish. Selflessness is the posture of transformation, within us and around us. When we humble ourselves to give and serve, we will be transformed within as we change things around us.

My father’s greatness was developed in his humility, as displayed by his service. He gave of himself to others and their benefit is his legacy. Everyone he touched carries him to some measure and their multiplication of his investment declares his greatness every day of their lives and the lives they touch, into eternity.

Your time hasn’t come yet, but what you do with this time will define and determine your time. The declaration of your time won’t be made by you, but it will be affirmed by others. Your greatness is incubating, not to be prematurely declared. As we enter a new year, the consideration of time should lead to the posture of humility, which will foster greatness. Greatness and wisdom are declared later, by others, not today. Today we have things to do.

Are You Fasting or Feasting on Your Gifts and Service?

I was leaving for a Quest last week and my wife, Julie, told me “it’s OK for us not to talk until you get home; you don’t need to call me.” She went on to say, “you don’t need to call me . . . as long as you are pursuing God. If you aren’t pursuing God, then call me.”

I do Quest events frequently and Julie encourages me to receive as well as give. She encourages me that if it’s just a job and there is no refreshing for refilling, then I’ll have to find another way to fill my tank. Her wisdom and support are incredible.

As I took her advice and began to pray and seek the Lord at the beginning of the week, I was quickened to consider a fast. As I asked God if I was being invited to fast, I was reminded of Isaiah 58, which asks, “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?”

I took that as a call to minister; that is, to simply offer up to God my service through ministry. From that, He was going to set men free. So that’s what I did, and would have likely done anyway. I continued to seek Him along the way and spent time without distraction when afforded the opportunity through the week.

We went through the week and God set men free. He saved them, He freed them, He redeemed them and He unleashed them. He moved in power, compassion, revelation and Truth. I agreed with Him and He was, as always, faithful.

At the end of the week, He and I had some time while the guys were eating breakfast. We had time where I was reminded of His love for me in a way that was refreshing and life-giving. My tank was filled.

We all have gifts and we are all invited into His purposes. He’ll get His stuff done and we’re invited to participate. Along the way, He will fill us, heal us and restore us, too. The way in, however, is to fast your gifts, not to feast on them.

We can’t serve to be seen or to be satisfied in the accomplishment. We fast our gifts by giving them over; not needing anything in return. It’s a fine line and it’s all heart. It can look the same two different times and one time it’s for Him and the other it’s to scratch an itch you have. Only you and Him can tell, more than likely. Here is the promise He gives for our offering of the agreement with Him and sacrificing the “us” in “our” ministry:

“Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.”

Take the Fight to the Bullies

One of my first felony clients had been bullied in school and he finally retaliated. His reaction got him charged by the school resource officer and his parents filed counter-charges against the instigator prior to my involvement. The net result was that I was going to court against a prosecutor and a 30 year criminal defense attorney retained to represent the bully.

Remember, this was one of my first cases of this magnitude and I was still learning. Then, we came out swinging. I believe the prosecutor and seasoned attorney were shocked at the defense that we put on that day. Things went well for us.

The key to any success in that case and in most cases isn’t too magical. I was simply better prepared. The prosecutor had hundreds of cases, the older attorney of greater experience had more difficult cases. For me, this was one of a few and it was the biggest one I had. I had poured into the preparation of a defense. I was more ready than they were.

You can’t wait until you get to the trial to get ready. Preparedness comes morning by morning (Isaiah 50:4). Once the bullets start flying, it’s too late to fumble around in the confusion and try to get your armor on. Get suited up in the quiet before the storm and you never know when the storm is coming; but it always is.

First and foremost, day by day, seek the Truth. Within the Truth is the reality of your identity. When you work from the security of who you are, you stare down giants. Not out of arrogance that is puffed up to hide the insecurity of doubt, but in the confidence that God’s favor is given to His kids.

From the Truth and the security of who you are by His design, you will be unleashed into the passions of your life. You will increasingly be released to run like the thoroughbred you are intended to be.

I was anxious as I headed into court; not out of fear, but anticipation. I believed in what I was doing that day and knew that I was called to do it. I was walking in the purpose of my identity and two other lawyers were doing a job. They were better trial attorneys than me based on experience and maybe even ability. But the favor that comes through agreement with God’s plans and purposes overtakes and overcomes the hurdles that otherwise might prevail.

The Slow Drift of Entitlement

We will absolutely lie to ourselves, but not on purpose. We don’t set out to get off course; it’s a slow drift and the slow drift is certain unless there are navigational safeguards in place to stay the course.

We will practically always operate in ways that are in our best interests. Therefore, with no intentional safeguards, those interests will become our compass over time. Nothing wrong with that other than it is, by definition, selfish. Selfishness breeds entitlement. This is particularly problematic if/when we lead others.

Legitimate leadership is sacrificial. That is, unless you are leading for the benefit of those that are choosing to submit, then you are a positional leader, at best. Positional leaders have no lasting legacy as they inspire no depth of dedication. Others will follow only for as long as it is in their best interests (e.g. a paycheck, an opportunity), but they will not multiply the vision of the leader. They will not perpetuate the purpose of the cause.

Entitled leaders are making choices in their own best interests even when they are believing it’s in the best interests of the organization. They increasing isolate themselves from meaningful counsel and collaboration that might challenge the underlying selfishness of their motives and it’s all very gradual and typically subconscious.

Entitlement can be defeated and selfless, sacrificial leadership can be fostered but only on purpose. If the leader will intentionally choose to battle the drift, others will give their time and treasures to the efforts of the leader driven by the purity of the call.

Two techniques to defeat entitlement are continuous improvement and collaboration. They may not be the only two, but these two are powerful in defeating the drift.

  • Continuous Improvement – I have a friend who has a doctorate in leadership. He describes himself, even on this side of his PhD as  “a student of leadership.” His point is that anyone who is not continuously learning leadership is no longer legitimately leading. Learning is admission of incompletion; and that’s good. There is no finish line to the art of leadership and the humility that comes with that realization positions the soul to serve others and be open to collaboration.
  • Collaboration – Even gifted leaders have the gifts of a single leader. In other words, we are all contained by our uniqueness; there are others that are unique in different ways. The collaboration of gifts multiples the value and impact of the gifts within us. When we are willing to submit ourselves, even from a position of authority, the power of our influence is exponentially multiplied.

Be intentional as you lead your business, your community organization, your family, your small group or whatever other opportunities you have to impact and multiply. Always be improving; thus posturing your ego in such a way that collaboration invites the multiplying effect of collaboration.

We Can’t Fix Everything, But We Can Hope

When I was practicing law, there was a time when I was struggling after I was not able to help a client that I really thought I could help more than I did. To be truthful, I got a little cocky and ran head first into situation that I shouldn’t have. In the wake of a relative failure, I was feeling bad about me. Still in the courthouse following the embarrassing setback, I was still engaged in beating myself up a little bit when I got jerked out of my self-pity by a crying mother and a little girl.

The mom was facing traffic and drivers license charges that, if convicted, would result in a mandatory ten days in jail. When I met with her before court, she had her young daughter with her and we talked about the possibilities. She was completely worn out from her effort and cascading failures. Her tears flowed generously and her sweet, angelic little daughter reached up assuredly with comfort and compassion.

Her despair and her daughter’s compassion drew tears from me, as well. Then, we re-grouped, said a prayer together and went into court. Hope rose following our prayer and the mood started to shift. When the smoke cleared, the most serious of her charges was reduced and she walked out of the courtroom with some fines but no jail time.

This was a victory. A victory against despair and against hopelessness. A victory against the scars that might have come in the heart and soul of that little girl if there had been the difficult conversation of where mommy will be for the next 10 days. A victory against doubt of the very existence of or interest from a God she had been crying out to.

For me, the victory was over the lies regarding my ability to make a difference for and with people. I’m not saying that I did anything legally significant for this little family, but I am saying that I was there to walk through something with them. I was an advocate for the hurting when they needed one and that is an honor.

We are invited every day to extend our efforts beyond our failures. There are hurting mommas and sweet daughters all around us to invite us into the hope and honor of standing with others. We can’t fix everything, but we can hope with everyone.

 

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.