Measure of a Man (book review)

This may be the best audio book I’ll ever hear. If there aren’t plans for it to become a movie, it’s just a matter of time. Someone alert Steven Spielberg or Martin Scorsese.

The quality of an audio book can be determined by the reader. Within minutes you understand why this reader, Stefan Rudnicki, has won Grammys. 

Yet, even though the quality of the production is fantastic, the mesmerizing aspect of this book is the life story it covers. Mr. Greenfield’s story includes the horror of the holocaust, his transitioning to America, his providential start in the tailoring business, and his fortuitous connections to politicians and celebrities. Despite his success, he maintains the importance of loyalty to his family, his faith, and his workers. He gives all the credit to God for how his life illustrates the measure of a man.

Read this book if you…

  • …like biographies.
  • …enjoy history.
  • …are an immigrant.
  • …love America.
  • …are inspired by other’s success.
  • …believe God deserves all the credit.

The Closer (book review)

If you keep telling people about thoughts and stories from your current read, it must be worth sharing. Such was the case for me with Mariano Rivera’s book, The Closer.

Unless you’ve been an avid follower of his throughout his career, it’s likely you don’t know much about his upbringing in Panama, that a career in baseball wasn’t his childhood dream, and even crazier, that he wasn’t groomed as a pitcher (he loved the outfield).

He certainly gives the baseball nut much to ingest, but there’s something for any reader in this book. Like he married his childhood sweetheart. Oh, and that after baseball they renovated an abandoned Presbyterian church in New Rochelle, New York, to open a new church, Refuge of Hope.

An audio find in my local library, this was worth the listen. I had to get accustomed to the reader; but once I did, I was all in. Even shed a tear or two.

Baseball. God. Passion. Love. You’ll find that and more in The Closer. Add it to your next up list.

Three Ways to Let God Out of Your Box

(Continued from yesterday’s entry)

Too often we tell ourselves we aren’t smart enough or attractive enough or talented enough to pursue our dreams. We buy into what others say about us, or we put restrictions on ourselves. What’s worse is that when we consider ourselves unworthy, we are putting limits on how God can work through us! When you give up on your dreams, you put God in a box.

There are three phrases in Nick’s quote that explain how we put God in our box: we tell ourselves, we buy into, we consider ourselves. These actions aren’t generated by God. They are generated by ourselves and others, and they reveal the second way to let God out of our box.

Stop Believing Lies 

Have you noticed you are one of the biggest liars about you? Nick gave you some examples: “I’m not smart enough. I’m not talented enough. I’m not attractive enough.” Sure, maybe someone actually said those or similar things to you one time, but who keeps repeating them more than anyone else? You do. Stop telling yourselves lies that you end up believing. 

Yes, others say things that we have a choice to buy into. A choice. In middle school, my music teacher said I wasn’t good enough to get a college degree in music. I chose not to believe that and got that degree anyway. And in my ministry career others have said I wouldn’t be able to get hired by churches because my marital status is single. For over twenty years now God has chosen otherwise.

To stop believing ours and other’s lies, we must fill our hearts and minds with God’s truths. Instead of undermining what God wants to do in our lives by considering ourselves unworthy, we should believe scriptures like Zephaniah 3:17: “The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.” Who in their right mind wants to believe lies and box up the God of that verse?

What lies do you need to stop believing? What God truths could replace those lies? Tell God, “I’m tired of the lies. I’m going to stop believing them and stand in your truths. Show me what it’s like to let you out of my box.”

(Blog completed tomorrow)

Three Ways to Let God Out of Your Box

You read that title right. You may not be almighty, but you are capable of stuffing God in a box of your making. It’s so easy that most of us do it without even knowing or thinking about it. And then we marvel at those who live what seem like extraordinary lives, not knowing that they have simply let God out of their box.

Case in point: Nick Vujicic. He was born without limbs-no arms or legs. Can you imagine the box he had as a child where he stuffed God? That box must have been filled with lots of whys, hows, whens, and seriouslys. And who could blame him? Sounds perfectly natural to think God had messed up-you might say he put himself in Nick’s box.

Somewhere along the way, Nick decided to let God out of that box. Nick is now 35 years old, married, travels the world speaking, and directs an organization that helps share the message of hope in the God he let out of his box. I started reading his devotional book, Limitless, this week where in the first day’s reading entitled Free from Limitations he wrote this:

Too often we tell ourselves we aren’t smart enough or attractive enough or talented enough to pursue our dreams. We buy into what others say about us, or we put restrictions on ourselves. What’s worse is that when we consider ourselves unworthy, we are putting limits on how God can work through us! When you give up on your dreams, you put God in a box.

From Nick’s quote, we can see three ways to let God out of any box where we’ve decided he belongs.

Don’t Give Up

Giving up is another one of those easy-to-do human things. What if we looked at giving up as putting God in a box? What if we stopped exercising our finite power in such a life-sucking way resulting in squelching the infinite power of God? For some other cases in point, consider the following people who didn’t give up:

  • Noah
  • Esther
  • Joshua
  • Daniel
  • Martin Luther
  • Abraham Lincoln
  • Alexander Bell
  • Winston Churchill
  • Martin Luther King Jr.
  • Jesus

How their lives and those impacted by their decisions would have been changed had God stayed in their box!

Are you considering giving up? On your marriage? On your education? On your faith? On your passion? Tell God, “It’s all yours. I’m not giving up. Show me what it’s like to let you out of my box.”

(Blog continued tomorrow)

Life Balance Exercise: How’s Your Awe?

I just finished reading Awe by Paul David Tripp, second time, first 2017 reading. If you’ve yet to read it, I encourage you to bump it up your list.

Here’s an example why. Chapter 13 is entitled “Work.” The challenge is to consider how your awe of God compares to your awe of work. 

Could it be that you’re asking work to do for you what it cannot do?

God is too wise and loving ever to call you to one area of responsibility that will necessitate you being irresponsible in another.

The drawing above illustrates Tripp’s challenge. These domains are what we have been given in life, our calling. Keeping them in balance, owning our responsibility is vital.

To check your life balance, here are three questions and suggestions regarding your awe:

  1. In each individual domain, rate your awe of God in that domain using a scale of 1-10.
  2. Considering the three domains together where the ideal would be a balance of thirds (33.33% each), what percentage would you give each of them today? (Consider drawing your own graph as a visual)
  3. What can you address in these domains to achieve better balance and responsibility and to deepen your awe of God?

3 Keys to Distinguishing Yourself

In a world where everyone and everything is readily accessible, the idea of making a mark, of being memorable, of branding well is high on the priority list. Believe it or not, there’s a guy in the Bible whose storyline gives insights into distinguishing yourself. You find him in Daniel 6.

“Daniel distinguished himself above the administrators and satraps because he had an extraordinary spirit, so the king planned to set him over the whole realm. The administrators and satraps, therefore, kept trying to find a charge against Daniel regarding the kingdom. But they could find no charge or corruption, for he was trustworthy, and no negligence or corruption was found in him.” ‭‭Daniel‬ ‭6:3-4‬ ‭CSB‬‬

Daniel was a foreigner, in exile. Yet he respected God’s purposes enough to distinguish himself, not for himself but for God. Verse 3 says he had an extraordinary spirit; verse 4 says he was trustworthy and without corruption. How did these three keys set him apart?

Extraordinary Spirit

When you’re forced to be somewhere not of your choosing, your first inclination is not to be extraordinary. Most would be tempted with bitterness or anger. For the person who truly believes like Daniel that God sees and knows all things, those temptations can easily be overcome. Whatever challenge you face-job situation, financial struggles, family tension, unexpected loss-you have access to the God who is working for you who can give you an extraordinary spirit. That’s distinguishing. 

Trustworthy 

Nurturing and cultivating trust in all relationships is worth any amount of time and effort. Think about the people you most trust. How did that trust get built? What character traits do they manifest that distinguished them to foster your willingness to trust them? Daniel had saved lives by his dream interpretation skills. That’s trustbuilding. But even more cultivating was he didn’t take credit. He acknowledged his power source was his God. Daniel built trust by doing his job selflessly and humbly giving proper credit. That’s distinguishing. 

Without Corruption

Position brings power. Power attracts opportunities. Opportunities can be the enemy’s minefield. The storyline of Daniel 6 illustrates the opposing responses to power and opportunity and their results. Daniel remained incorrupt by staying closer to his God daily and avoiding the enemy’s lure into his minefield. Even the threat of death lost its power. That’s distinguishing. 

Should we wonder why God found Daniel innocent  (verse 22)? Just like Daniel, we can be distinguished. Our spirit can be extraordinary. We don’t have to allow bitterness or anger to lead us into mistrust or corruption. Daniel accomplished this by maintaining his routine of communicating with God. His location, occupation, and feelings were not allowed to sway him from being who God wanted him to be. That’s distinguishing. 

5 Rules to Avoid Regrettable Commitments

Who knew a book on business could be so rich? Well, I can tell you that Larry Burkett’s book Business by the Book is.

For example, in chapter 6, Keeping Vows, he gives five simple rules that could not only be applied to good business practice but also good personal living practice. He developed them to avoid making commitments he might later regret:

  1. When in Doubt, Say No
  2. Keep a “Year at a Glance” Calendar
  3. Prioritize the Day
  4. Don’t Book Too Far Ahead
  5. Use a Written Contract

Here are two quotes from the chapter that seem to support the need for these rules:

  • Situational ethics have so shaped our society that even God’s people have lost the concept of absolutes when it comes to keeping our word.
  • The probability of a misunderstanding in a written agreement has been calculated at 20%, more or less. The probability of a misunderstanding in a verbal agreement is nearly 100%!

What is My Personal Creed?

Reading this quote from The Critical Journey posed another question:

Usually people at this stage have been given a personal creed from God that guides their lives…a daily empowerment at a practical spiritual level…simple, intimate, and can extend to all people. Examples include: All will be well; God is enough; Love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind; Be still and know that I am God; All is gift. (p. 210)

The question to me then was, what is my personal creed? My answer came quickly. My creed is an adaptation to the end of the Lord’s Prayer that I gleaned from reading a book on prayer. The creed is “Your will be done in my life as it is in heaven.”

Reading this quote again and writing down my creed, another thought occurred to me. Creeds certainly can come from Scripture, but it seems they could also come from songs that are scripture based. Lyrics are powerful and certainly can carry a person through a stage of life. So to further exemplify creeds, here are some of my “lyric creeds”:

  • “I want no regrets when the horses come for me.” -Margaret Becker
  • “Me without You is a lie.” -Avalon
  • “It’s your breath in my lungs…great are you, Lord.” -All Sons and Daughters
  • “I’m in awe of you…I owe all to you.” -Chris Tomlin
  • “You’re my hope.” -Danny Gokey
  • “My soul will sing your praise unending.” -Matt Redman
  • “Here I am, knees to the earth, here I am.” -Watermark
  • “I am a child of God.” -Bethel Music
  • “Be my heart’s obsession, first and only in my life. In your love alone my soul is satisfied.” -Elevation Worship

What are your scripture and/or lyric creeds?

What is God Calling Me to Become?

In making decisions currently, I have not asked where I am to be or what I am to do, but what it is that God is calling me to become. (p. 103, The Critical Journey: Stages in the Life of Faith)

Today’s blog and the following one will be based on thoughts from this book I’m finishing:

This quote resonated with me because it’s a question I’ve wandered in and out of over the past decade. It seems, as we go through stages/seasons of life, this would be a great question to keep in front of us. It’s very possible that the answer will change as we journey and grow.

So here is what I wrote in my journal on March 8 to answer the question, What is God Calling Me to Become:

  • A lover of all people
  • A helper to the wanderer
  • A friend to my colleagues
  • A present dweller
  • A faster forgiver
  • A questioner rather than a teller
  • A relaxed worker
  • A Spirit listener
  • A dependent child
  • A contented kingdom dweller

What is God Calling You to Become?

Do You Know Your Values? 

I just finished reading a chapter in a book (Becoming a Professional Life Coach) I’m reading for one of my coaching courses. The chapter was entitled “Steering Your Life by True North.”  The following statement sums up the chapter’s intent:

It’s impossible to lead a fulfilling life that does not honor or that is out of alignment with our core values.

This question then rises: do you know your core values?  To clarify, core values aren’t the things you think you should value. They may not even be the things you currently have chosen to value. Your core values are the qualities that when lived you are unashamed and satisfied with how you’re living life.

To help you identify your core values, here’s an exercise from the chapter:

Think back to the qualities you had as a child. List 5 to 10 qualities that were true of you between the ages of 6 and 12.

You’ve been naturally drawn towards certain things ever since you were a child, and some qualities were just naturally part of you. You may have been naturally creative or thoughtful, or a lover of nature or beauty. You may have been a natural helper of others or may have been drawn to things that were new or different. Or perhaps you were an experimenter or explorer. These qualities may be among your core values or may be clues to help you identify them.

Sit down and quickly list 5 to 10 of these qualities right now. Circle all of those qualities that are still a part of your life and that come naturally to you. Include anything you would be and do if your work, time, and life supported you in fulfilling them. Also include things that people cannot stop you from doing.

May you know your core values! May you know your true north!