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.

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.

Prime Factor

dadIf we tend to the main thing, we’ll impact the other things. Finding the one factor that can change the other factors the most brings multiplication.

Men walking in their proper places will have a multiplying effect. If men will stand in their place as the head of families, the families can enjoy the benefit of the sacrifice. When a man properly serves his wife and family, it fosters a culture of honor where every member of that family is released to walk in their identity.

We don’t have to reinvent the wheel with various programs for every conceivable branch of the tree; we just need to tend to the roots. It is important for men to know they are the head of the home and that doesn’t mean that they are to rule over those that live there. It means that they are commissioned to make a way for the benefit of those that have been entrusted to them.

If we will call men into their place as the head, where they sacrifice for the benefit of others and foster honor by offering honor, the rest can fall into place. We won’t have to have nearly as many remedial or tangential efforts to try to manage consequences of homes that are out-of-order. We can simply go to ones that are called to tend to others and equip them for the multiplication that is available house to house.

Our services and programs have to be based in recognition that they exist for the equipping of others and not validation of the ministers. They need to call to hearts that are open to transformation and not intended to simply attract those seeking entertainment. Men will sit passively being entertained until and unless they are actively compelled to step into their place.

Their place is entirely about their hearts. They need a jump-start at a heart level much more than they need more information. Information is safe and easy while it can be managed to maintain the status quo. Going deeper won’t be their first choice, but without an option they will sit and observe where they are intended to be quickened to carry.

Want to minister to marriages? Minister to men. Want to minister to families? Minister to men.

Commission them to tend to their homes and release them to be the priests and kings they are designed to be. Women won’t feel left out, they will feel alive to follow in the wake of the way that is made safe for them. Children won’t want for entertainment, they’ll have a model and champion advocating for them.  Dads will show them the way to go instead of just talking about it, or worse, delegating the talking to a Sunday morning professional.

Leadership Lessons of Christmas Shopping

13393428013895Just before Christmas, I was out at a town square style shopping area with my two kids and a friend’s five-year old son. His mom and my wife were doing some other things and I was responsible for watching the kids. Being the week before Christmas, it was extremely busy. We parked the car and made our way towards the store we were targeting.

Traffic was crazy and people were everywhere. I was walking us towards a particular store, but in the middle of trying to figure out exactly where that was I had to be sure the kids were with me and safe. My head was on a swivel as I made my way with the kids across cross walks and along sidewalks. I was constantly looking for threats (cars) and doing head counts to ensure that we were safe and intact.

As this was unfolding, I saw it as a great snapshot of what leadership is. I considered the following leadership characteristics applicable with a greater application than three kids in a shopping center:

  • Leadership Requires a Destination – Leaders need to know where they are intending to take the others nobody will drive the group towards a goal.
  • Others Might Not Be As Focused – The seven year old and the five-year old with me were certainly not as focused on the task at hand as I was.
  • Others Require Reminding – My reminders of waiting at intersections, wait for the group, etc. were consistent with the two young boys. Consistent, clear and even redundant communication keeps the group on point.
  • Direct Instructions From Station to Station – Five and seven-year old boys don’t always remember where we are going or why we are going there. It’s OK; I just have to get them from station to station at times. That can require direct feedback and instructions of what to do next.
  • Hearts Know – It was a pleasant outing despite the challenges and even though I gave direct and unilateral instructions at times. The younger boys knew I was for them and was looking out for their best interests so there was no issue with direct feedback.
  • Fun Is Included – There is no reason not to laugh and play along the way. Many of us spend significant amounts of time working and relationships which accommodate laughter along the way can only add to the job satisfaction.

Simple stuff, I suppose, but they were good reminders for me. Mastering the basics provides the practices necessary for sound leadership no matter the task at hand.

Bridging the Generation Gap

beatlesedsullivan-splshWe need to be in the same room. It’s important that the exchange isn’t segregated by age or other demographics. The value of the diversity is too rich to sacrifice it for programs or comfort. The potential discomfort has an infinite return on investment but the cost is intentionally staying in the same room.

I had the privilege of leading men on a Quest recently. We went away for five days on an individual pursuit collectively as a group. Each man was invited to chase and encounter God for himself, yet much of the time was in a group setting. There were eighteen year olds, twenty-somethings, forty-somethings and a sixty year old with a seventy-one year old to top it all off.

There were points where the cross-generational transfer was so evident that it was revelatory. Times like:

  • When the forty-year old business owner needed the eighteen year old’s raw and sincere expression of the love of God for a generational breakthrough
  • When the millennial’s needed the love of a grandfather expressed through the seventy-one year old
  • When an eighteen year old needed gentle assistance from a forty-something in harnessing a legitimate passion to display what meekness is
  • The forty-something, in that same exchange, seeing meekness differently for himself so that he could walk in it himself

Millennials aren’t “done” with church just because. They are “done,” to some measure, by the lack of value. Value is in the authentic relationship that is expressed across generational lines, not the segregation into a forum with louder music or edgier presentation. They want permission to be who God has created them to be and need the maturity and wisdom of those that have gone ahead of them.

The more mature believers need the fresh infusion of raw expression that the millennials offer. They need to see and feel the zealousness of youth which resists restraint in an abandoned worship. They need the permission to worship like kings that the millennials grant in their authentic pursuit.

All sides need validation. They need validation that they aren’t weird and that we need the other for the greater. We all need to be in the same room pursuing the same God and experiencing Him for ourselves and in each other.

Interpreting the Message

filtersNotice is necessary to cash in. You can’t spend what you don’t have and at the same time you can’t spend what you don’t know you have. There can be a treasure sitting at your fingertips but if your fingertips don’t feel it, the treasure continues to go unrealized. We can get reminded all the time if we’ll simply listen. If we’ll resist our efforts to scramble and do, we can attain more by who we already are than we ever will in our ability.

Our hope is in our identity, not our ability. It’s the inheritance that’s abundant, not the hourly wage. The more we work to try to earn, the more we resist the receipt of all that’s already been paid for.

Romans 8:16 says “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.”

God Himself whispers to us “you’re a son” so that we can know who we are. God is Spirit so He is speaking directly to our spirits, Deep calling to deep. We have a true identity at the core of our being and the Creator of that identity reminds us of who we are.

The trap is often in our interpretation. As Spirit calls to spirit, Deep unto deep, there is temptation to take the spiritual exchange and filter it through our soul. We often want to consider the truth of His whisper through the lens of our mind, will and emotions (our soul). The natural next thing, then, is to try to think like a son (mind), act like a son (will) and feel like a son (emotions). Those efforts to think, act and feel have left the treasure of our sonship in their heavenly vault as we attempt to achieve son stuff through our efforts.

The whisper of God is an invitation. It’s a reminder from a Father that we have access. We are afforded the abundance of grace and free gift of righteousness that Jesus paid for. We just have to receive it (Romans 5:17). Receiving is no more than appropriation of what He holds without trying to add to His effort. It’s resting in Him.

The reminder of the Holy Spirit calls us to Jesus; not action. In Jesus, we will respond from the fullness of the treasure He has stored up for us. It’s His grace that fills us and equips us to be sons, not our knowing, feeling and acting like a son in religious striving.