Every Job Presents Opportunities for Impact

During our first meeting in my office, I realized that the task at hand for this particular client wasn’t as legal as it was something different.  Her legal situation, while not particularly egregious, was grim.  She had been convicted of a misdemeanor and was appealing the conviction as she wanted desperately to clear her record.

As she sat and poured out her problems, I eventually put my pen down and just listened.  The facts surrounding the accusation were simple and the legal defense took just a minute to consider.  The chances of winning were slim, at best.  The facts surrounding the rest of her life were not nearly as simple.  She had taken some pretty tough hits in life and the result was financial stress, health problems and the challenge of raising two children on her own.

During that consultation, I told her how we would handle her case.  As importantly, I tried to give her something to get a hold of for her to begin to handle her life, as well.  Simple encouragement that brought hope and perspective.  The truth of who she was without the shame and guilt she had been piling on herself for some time now. No judgment or condemnation but recognition of the value of her eternal design.

We went to trial and lost.  We tried – threw a legitimate legal argument at a legitimate legal problem. Concerned that she was going to be upset following the trial, I started to talk with her in the hallway and she interrupted me.

She said, “Mr. Prickett, I am as full of hope right now as I have been in a long time.  When I came to your office, I was scared and defeated but you were kind to me.  Nobody has said the nice things that you said to me in my entire life.  Those words were exactly what I needed to hear.”  I listened and watched as a single tear rolled down her cheek.  She went on to share that she had signed up for college classes even though “it may take forever to get my degree, but I’m going to be moving forward with positive steps to keep my mind off of my problems.”

We all have the capacity to be the minister and we don’t need a church job to do it. We just have to be willing to agree with God in circumstances where people need God’s truth, hope and love. Once you know, you know enough. Once you have found truth, hope and love, give it away no matter what job you have from which you work as a minister.

The One Thing that Fixes Everything

The older that I get, the more challenging things can be. After 52 years, I am less confident in my correctness than ever before, even when I am right. I am increasingly decreasing through humility imposed as much as humility chosen. “Adulting” is no joke.

In my youth, zeal and ignorance kept me from fear. I was too young to know better and that’s not entirely good nor entirely bad; it just is. In fact, having the perspective of a child is ultimately the goal.

Now, I’m a professional Christian. I write things and say things and organize things that center around Jesus because I believe that everyone can benefit from what He is offering. I really do believe . . . and I doubt. I really am passionate . . . and I get weary. I really do want to help people . . . and I get hurt by them. I really do love people . . . and they wear me out. I really do trust God . . . and I’m afraid He won’t come through sometimes.

That list of paradoxical perspectives, feelings, experiences and thoughts could likely go on for quite some time. The uncertainty of me doesn’t change Him. The absoluteness of Him invites that uncertainty of me time and again. He remains who He has always been and invites me and my fluidity to his foundation. In that place, when I seek Him and find Him, there is a restoration and re-filling of contentment, peace, joy and peace.

His grace never gets tired of my agitation. His grace calls to me to step towards the one and eternal solution. The only thing that was ever designed or intended to be everything we need is, thankfully, also the most consistent and never ending thing we can ever imagine. In fact, it is beyond our imagination.

The only thing, place, person or feeling that fixes everything is the love of God. Only when I spend time in pursuit of the first and foremost need do the second and inferior other things take their proper place. Only in the security of relationship to “Abba” or Father God, even “Daddy” God, do my insecurity, inferior logic, busy mindedness, hurt, fear and other distractions fade to insignificant.

For some reason, and unfortunately, I’m too quick to go back to the other stuff once it starts flying at me. Then I am reminded of the open invitation to sit quietly with Him. He approves of me. He likes me. He loves me. He feels the exact same way about you . . . Just ask HIm. He’ll remind you.

There is No Badge of Honor in Impatience

We are all inclined to view our intentions and even our weaknesses in the most favorable light. When we mess things up or hurt someone else by our choices, a common defense is “I didn’t mean to.” Frankly, that intention usually isn’t the point; the choice and results declare themselves and owning them is the mature response.

With that in mind, things that we think we intend or why we do what we do can be elusive. We may think we know what we meant, wanted, etc., but we will lie to ourselves and believe it. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)

That passage isn’t about cardiac disease; it’s about the condition of our soul. Our soul is our mind, will and emotions. Our mind, will and emotions are deceitful and lie among themselves beyond our understanding. We think we believe something (in our mind) but we choose to do things (our choices reflect our will) inconsistent with the values of those supposed beliefs.

Within that reality, the “fix” for our problems is sometimes not what we think. For instance, fear is not overcome with courage. Courage, in fact, is evidence of fear and the choice to do something despite the presence of fear. Fear is overcome with love. (“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” – 1 John 4:18).

Similarly, I found recently, that the opposite of impatience is not patience, but the opposite of impatience is humility. Consider Ecclesiastes 7:8: “Better is the end of a thing than its beginning, and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit.”

All too often we embrace our fears (e.g. fear of heights, dogs, etc.) and, likewise, often embrace our impatience. We will wear our impatience as almost a badge of honor. When asked about our weaknesses in a job interview, it is not uncommon to try to present a negative in a positive light.

According to the wisdom of Solomon in Ecclesiastes, impatience is pride. It is the willful choice of rising up to take control. There is nothing to brag about in our fear nor our impatience. There is certainly nothing to boast about in our pride. When we think we have to resolve things because God hasn’t moved quickly enough in our circumstances so we elevate ourselves to small “g” god status since capital “G” God hasn’t met our expectations, we choose to sit on His throne. That never turns out well in the long run.

God, will you grant me humility enough to wait on you? In Jesus, name, Amen.

Choose Forgiveness or Swallow the Bitter Poison

There are two choices; forgive or grow bitter. There is no such word as “unforgiveness,” there is only forgiveness given or bitterness fostered. Remember anybody along the way that someone else said, “they are just a bitter old man?” Likely, if true, it’s because they chose not to forgive somewhere along the way.

Catch that? “Chose” not to forgive. Nothing about their feelings. Forgiveness isn’t an emotion; it’s a choice. It doesn’t mean that it didn’t hurt; in fact, hurt is almost always present if/when forgiveness is called for. Forgiveness comes as a choice in the face of hurt. Or bitterness.

Bitterness is validated by justice. When considering what someone did which was hurtful or offensive, it is typically not difficult to formulate a solid strategy and monologue supporting their conviction. We all become trial attorneys. Based on our supporting evidence, we find you guilty and in fact, it’s often true. So the self-argued and self-decided guilty verdict results in a sentence of nothing for the other person and bitterness for us. Poison.

They offered Jesus the poison, the bitter gall, on the Cross. He could have taken it and it would have eased His pain but He didn’t swallow it. He wasn’t on the cross to get even; He was on the Cross to give grace. He wasn’t there to perpetuate justice; He was there to satisfy it. He chose instead, “Forgive them, Father . . . ”

Making the case and holding onto the offense is satisfying for a moment. It satisfies our soul’s desire for justice at the cost of our spirit’s need for grace. It fosters toxins that give us the illusion of vindication but actually starts the erosion of our character from the agitating effects of bitterness.

It’s not an emotion; you can’t wait until it feels better because it’s needed in triage at the diagnosis or hurt. In fact, that same choice to forgive may have to be made over and over through lingering hurt from a single offense. It may have to be multiplied 7 times 70 or so.

The best part is that you don’t really have to manufacture it; there is a Source that will give it to you. “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” gives us the “how to.” Remember and appropriate the grace that you have received and continue to need. Then, give it away to others.

Mature Masculinity From a Surprising Source

The question of toxic masculinity has received plenty of  attention recently and I took an initial shot at examining the idea a couple of weeks ago here. Not too long after writing that, layers continued to be revealed as I dug deeper into what it was and what it wasn’t.

Along the way, I heard my friend Todd McIntyre teach on masculinity and where he took us blew me away. He went to one of the more unlikely sources I would have imagined. He went to 1 Corinthians 13; otherwise known as “the love chapter.” How in the world was the idea of love from a passage that is typically quoted at weddings going to illustrate or unpack a picture of healthy or true masculinity?

Verse 11, that’s how. Specifically, “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.”

Paul, by inspiration of the Holy Spirit was writing on love and plopped this verse right in the middle of lovey-dovey stuff. He taught on love and wrapped it up with maturity. Specifically, he wrapped it up with mature masculinity (although it is equally applicable by either gender) as he specified that he had become a “man.” A mature man loves in a way that is consistent with the first 10 verses of that chapter. In other words, a mature man:

  • Submits his gifts and abilities to others through love
  • Is patient
  • Is kind
  • Doesn’t boast and isn’t proud
  • Honors others
  • Is selfless
  • Doesn’t act in anger easily
  • Doesn’t keep track of rights and wrongs (is graceful)
  • Rejects evil and rejoices in truth
  • Always protects, trusts, hopes and perseveres

That eternal description of mature manhood puts me in a place of repentance. I need to change my mind. I need to grow up. All too often, my thoughts, feelings and/or choices reflect immature love more than they do mature masculinity. All too often, I need the grace of Jesus that comes in the wake of my repentance to heal, deliver, restore and repair my broken, wounded and incomplete soul. Then I can reflect His manhood and not rely on my toxic and temporal efforts.

The Value of a Champion

One year ago tomorrow, I jogged down a hospital hallway to catch up with two attendants pushing a gurney with my father on it on the way back to heart surgery. They stopped as I called out and when I reached them, my dad had already closed his eyes as was beginning to go to sleep. He opened his eyes and I said, “I love you, dad; I’ll see you in a few hours,” while placing my right hand on his upper left chest.

He reached his right hand across his body and put it on top of my hand, saying, “I love you, son,” with a slight grin. That was the last time we talked and, as far as I know, those were the last words he ever spoke. The surgery went poorly, he never woke up and my dad entered heaven three days later.

Anniversaries cause you to reflect and as I reflect at the one year anniversary of my father’s passing, I realize the greatest loss I have suffered as a result of his death. I lost a champion.

My dad wasn’t one to give tons of advice and hardly ever pushed his opinion into my circumstances. He was supportive and available and was unconditional in his love. He let me figure things out and responded if called upon. In figuring it out, there was nobody in this world that celebrated the wins for me and with me more than my dad has.

Over the past year, what I have missed the most is the ability to share the victories with him. Phone calls or visits to talk of how something was working out well were always met with equal joy and satisfaction from him. The times I miss him can be diverse in their origin but some of the most palpable times of grief are when I want to share a win.

My friend, Omar, reminded me not too long ago that while we often talk about the Bible’s call to “mourn with those who mourn,” the rest of that verse is to “rejoice with those who rejoice.” (Romans 12:15) It’s just as important to have relationships that celebrate with us as it is to have those that will allow for the healthy processing of our grief.

I’m so thankful to have a loving bride that celebrates with me and kids as well as other family. I just miss my first champion.