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.

God is Present Among Us

Like everyone, I have been working through various challenges that are practical in nature. There are real and present circumstances that require attention and that attention is tangible. The actions and reactions are manifest in and around people.

At the same time, I have been intently and purposefully drawing near to God. I went through a season where I felt a bit disconnected and lacking any intimacy with Him. The times of connection which I have been finding with Him as I pursue depth are rich and refreshing.

Recently, I noticed a collision of the practical and the private. The refreshment of intimate connection to the love of the Father played out in the practical decision-making process. Was I saw was the multiplication of His presence as the manifestation of His wisdom was displayed through community.

As I discussed a thought process and developing strategy with two people who serve as wise counsel and co-laborers, one of them offered, “when you first started talking about this, I believe God stirred in me, ‘not this week.'”

The second person confirmed that they were stirred to wait in similar fashion as there was an upcoming event that they believed needed to unfold first. Same counsel, different yet consistent reasoning.

The counsel and the rationale, in both instances, resonated with me as right and true. The wisdom of the Lord was manifesting in the counsel of those that know Him. In this case, there were three of us.

We draw into the love of the Father by the grace of Jesus. We seek the filling and refreshing of the Holy Spirit as we draw near to Him. We need to be refreshed and connected through times of individual worship, study and prayer. Then the walking out of our purpose in agreement with Him is with others.

The fellowship of the Holy Spirit, as referenced in 2 Corinthians 13:14, is played out in the fellowship of others. He manifests, as often as not, through others that are intimately connected with Him. There is agreement and grace when we are submitted in humility, one to another, to allow for His wisdom to be manifest through His carriers. His carriers are us.

There are no rogue prophets. We seek his voice and insight submitted one to the other (1 Corinthians 14:32). The natural application of the supernatural begs for agreement between imperfect vessels of the Perfect. If and when we will allow Him to speak through us and among us, then He will be displayed through us. All of us as the corporate body will put Him on display, not a single one of us elevated to His place as the Head.

We All Need to Get Suspended Sometimes

There is a controversial battle going on between an NFL star, Ezekiel Elliott, and the NFL right now. There were accusations against him from a former girlfriend that he had physically abused her. The accusations were investigated but no criminal charges were brought. The NFL, however, decided to conduct an independent investigation and ultimately suspended him for six games. Now there is a lawsuit in federal court in an attempt to overturn that suspension.

From the information that is leaking out, the accuser had made threats of ruining and blackmailing him and there are apparently some real questions of her credibility. It’s swayed public opinion to lean in many cases to more of a benefit of the doubt for Elliott. What has come out in those same leaks, however, are some sordid details of a lifestyle that has been cruising towards trouble for some time.

Details regarding sex, drugs, abortion and an apparent embracing of a lifestyle that is out of control have emerged. Despite that apparent immorality, fans have begun to rally behind the running back in hopes that he not be suspended so that he can play without suspension. They want to watch him run and catch. They want to be entertained.

I’m an attorney and believe in due process. Evidence needs to be handled and processed correctly to ascertain an accurate picture of the truth. Without respect for the process, justice is compromised and order gives way to subjectivity and chaos. With that said, while conceding that all I know about this is through the media, it appears that Ezekiel Elliott might need to be suspended for Ezekiel Elliott’s sake, if nothing else.

Consequences are the best thing that can happen to us when we are living in patterns of destructive behavior that are not the intention of our design. Consequences quicken our awareness of our humanity and potentially open us to the kindness of the Lord that leads us to repentance. Getting caught or frustrated in our detours help us put things back on track. We need the order and justice of authority to avoid the downward spiral of rebellion and immorality.

I don’t know what is going to happen with the legal case, suspension, rushing yards, etc. of this 22-year-old young man. I do know, that the appetites and choices of most young men will lead us towards our own harm if we aren’t accountable for those behaviors that will ultimately hurt us and hurt others. We all need to get caught, whether by circumstantial evidence or an airtight case. If not, we are all prone towards the detours that keeps us from our destiny. We all need a suspension sometimes, to keep us from running further and further off the tracks.

The First Thing Fuels the Other Things

I was running on empty lately because I was running from my own ability. I have been invited into good things, eternal things, but I was applying temporary efforts to an eternal equation. The cost of the disconnection was my own relationship with the One that extended the invitation in the first place.

Our ability is fueled by our source. If we are the source of all that we seek to do, the well is perpetually running dry. We can get things done for as long as the weekends, whiskey, vacations, television, computer, exercise or other indulgences afford us the chance to escape. Those escapes, however, provide a stop-gap re-charge to a reservoir that is destined for empty.

The only way to realize the fullness of life in the living of life is by connection to the Source of life. Connection to the Source is intimacy, not knowledge. In fact, the intimacy is what fuels the understanding that is required for interpretation of knowledge.

He’s a Father. He birthed us from the design that He had for us. The plans for our lives are connected to eternity. As my friends David Terry and Marc Owings say, we are hardwired straight from the factory. Our hard wiring is for connection to the One that put the wires there in the first place.

Eternal purpose requires eternal supply. Temporal supply to an eternal purpose yields a diminishing return. In other words, even ministry and the stuff that we do “for God” requires God to fuel it. His fuel is relational connection. It’s intimacy.

Intimacy with the Father fuels everything. It fuels friendships and marriage. It fuels family and work. It fuels purpose and destiny. Intimacy with the Father is the point. The rest of the stuff is secondary.

C.S. Lewis said, “Put first things first and second things are thrown in. Put second things first and you lose both first and second things.”

The first thing is Him. He is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. We when are routinely engaged in an intimate relationship with Him, that stuff comes out of us. When that stuff isn’t there, we are probably our own source. Even when we are trying to do His stuff. Doing His stuff without Him was never the plan.

 

Next Level Leadership Needs No Insignia

The first leadership position that I remember was in the Boy Scouts. I remember organizing, planning, delegating and communicating to get a couple of dozen other young men from one place to the other. Those places included Italy, Austria and all over Germany (we lived in Germany for a few years when I was growing up).

At 18, I was promoted into a supervisor’s position as an assistant warehouse manager ahead of 30-somethings and candidates that had been to college. Later, I went to college and became the president of my fraternity, cadet commander of the school’s ROTC detachment, and a Resident Assistant. From there, I was commissioned as a second lieutenant and led soldiers as a tank platoon leader, eventually as a company commander. Along the way, I became a corporate manager with responsibility for subordinate supervisors and teams of employees.

There were other leadership experiences that have led me to where I am today. Almost 50, I have believed that I am well positioned to hit my stride. I have felt equipped, called and suited to lead in the places where I currently have responsibility. What I am finding as I hit the half-century mark is different from I had expected. Hitting stride is different from I thought.

The tactics, impact and ability to get things done as a leader shift. The shift is from control to influence. The direct cause and effect of my effort is no longer the plan. The shift I am being invited into, I believe, is into the next level of leadership. It’s what Jim Collins calls “Level 5” leadership. Level 5 leadership is described as a “paradoxical blend of humility and willpower.”

The “x” factor is in the humility. While I have battled pride over the years, the Lord has done a work. I am not the man who I was, by His grace. Yet, there is more. There is a depth of humility that calls out to my soul which holds the unlocking of the power of maximized leadership.

I don’t know exactly what it is or what it means, just yet. I am interested, but still a bit ignorant. The best picture I have so far is a picture of a military officer. A military officer is adorned with rank that is worn on their collar. I see the invitation being encapsulated in the taking off of the rank and laying it on the table. It doesn’t change the leader; it reflects their lack of a need for any adornment.

The best picture I have of who that person of authority looks like is Jesus.