Wordlessly

Harvey Kanter’s recent book on leadership, Choosing to Lead, is my current read. If you want a practical, straightforward, fairly quick read on leadership, give this book a look.

I just finished chapter 13 entitled Decisiveness. Two thumbs up. His main illustration is a familiar one, the 2009 event of Flight 1549 leaving LaGuardia and crash landing in the Hudson River-a scrutinized decision by Captain Sully Sullenberger. Here’s an excerpt from the chapter:

The entire scenario from the first bird strike to the initial impact of a water landing took just under 3 1/2 minutes to play out. Relying on their training to save everyone on board, the response of Captain Sully and his crew was to act decisively. In a much later interview Sullenberger said, “…he worked sometimes wordlessly with his first officer, Jeff Skiles, in dividing urgent chores despite never having flown together before… ‘We were able to collaborate wordlessly,’ Sullenberger said, ‘I didn’t have time to direct his every action… You have to deal with the most time critical things first… Situational awareness is the ability to see the entirety of the forest, but knowing at any given moment which tree is the most important one.'”

When I read that, one word struck me-wordlessly. Both of these men brought all of themselves to the situation resulting in a terrific outcome-wordlessly.

Sounds pretty unrealistic to expect all our relationships to reach such a high level. But here’s what’s not unrealistic-working to show up ready to be that for others whom God has put me in relationship. I cannot control how they show up. But I am completely responsible for bringing all of myself, ready to respond wordlessly.

God of My 20’s: Understanding Connectivity

(Post #9 in a collaborative series)

Guest Blogger Rick Howell

I felt the call of God into the ministry at the ripe young age of 17. While I obediently began to make decisions consistent with this understanding of God’s direction for my life, I thought it was the dumbest thing God could do. I was active in a small Baptist Church that only had two staff members: a pastor and a choir director. I knew I couldn’t sing; therefore, my calling must be to be a pastor. The problem with this, from my perspective, was that there was very little that I saw my pastor do that I thought I would either be good at or enjoy. Nevertheless, to the best of my understanding I proceeded forward. After getting married, my new bride and I moved to Louisville, Kentucky, to begin my pastoral preparation at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. I was 22 years old. Through the course of the next five years, God used a variety of circumstances to guide my journey to places I did not even know existed when Debbie and I packed the U-Haul and headed north. At a certain point in my ministerial formation, I experienced a crisis of self and faith that, I would learn one day, was complicated by my misunderstandings of myself, God, and our relationship. Fortunately, for me, Southern had an arrangement with a local counselor with whom I began to meet. This counseling relationship became a vital tool of the Holy Spirit to begin to attend to some very unhealthy dimensions of my relationship with God and with myself. This exploration of self and God was at times very painful, but also life giving. I began to experience a deepening intimacy with God that would have not been possible if I had maintained my previous perspectives. Ever so gradually, I began to wonder if my particular God-given gifts and talents were intended for a ministry of pastoral counseling rather than the pastorate. As my calling began to be clarified and focused, God’s idea originally communicated eight years earlier became much less dumb. Isn’t it interesting how that transformation occurred?

My relationship with myself and God continues to grow and become, now 32 years later. I have come to understand that God is not nearly as concerned about my productivity as my connectivity. Staying grounded to myself enhances my willingness to be connected to God as I am clearly aware of my longing for God. Staying grounded to God, being reminded of God’s deep desire to hang out with me, enables me to be honest in my self-assessment thereby improving my relationship with myself. From time to time, I experience unhealthy remnants of my immature understanding of myself and God. I get caught up in impressing God with my activity or achievement. While these vestiges continue to disrupt my journey, I am committed to my own healing. God is patient, kind, and clear as I encounter these setbacks. God’s calm voice keeps calling me back. “Be still and know that I am God.”

At the same time and as a result of God’s calling on my life, I have had the privilege of serving God by walking alongside of people who are loved by God, for whom God desperately desires healing and wholeness. Through the years I have discovered that I am not unique, as it is common for folks to need a safe relationship with whom they can explore themselves, God, and their relationship. Perhaps this familiar human journey is what The Holy Scriptures is referring to when we are told to “Work out our own salvation in fear and trembling.” Relationships (with self, God, and others) are like bottles of Ketchup. It doesn’t matter how full they look from the outside; it takes a lot of work to get anything out of them.

Looking for Gold

I heard this quote today during a webinar:

“Men are developed the same way gold is mined. When gold is mined, several tons of dirt must be moved to get an ounce of gold; but one doesn’t go into the mine looking for dirt—one goes in looking for the gold.” -Andrew Carnegie

My mind immediately tried to connect this thought to scriptures like Job 23, Psalm 66, and Zechariah 13. But the context isn’t the same. These writers were referring to the outcomes of testing by fire. The imagery of mining for gold brings out a different challenge, even opportunity.

The webinar focused on a style of coaching labeled compassionate. Bottom-line premise: approach coaching as both you and the coachee looking for gold. Expect dirt moving to be necessary, but be more focused on the gold to be found.

Brene Brown would call this generosity. Regardless of whether we call it generous or compassionate, what might happen if we all approached our relationships and conversations, including self-talk, with such focus? It could impact…

  • …how we give employees annual reviews.
  • …how we discipline our children.
  • …how we chat with our neighbors.
  • …how we engage gossip.
  • …how we receive, “I’m sorry.”
  • …how long we coddle anger.
  • …how we analyze guilt.
  • …how we pursue dreams.
  • …how we set goals.
  • …and most impactfully, how we surrender to God’s testing.

Here’s to better and deeper gold looking!

Heard

(Post #1 in a 5-part series collaboration)

By Dawn Stark (bio below)

This morning in my daily devotion I’m reading from 1 Chronicles 14 where King David is fighting the Philistines. In preparation for the battle, David inquires of the Lord about strategy and God answers very specifically: “Do not attack them straight on. Instead circle around behind and attack them near the poplar trees.  When you hear a sound like marching feet in the tops of the poplar trees, go out and attack!” (NLT). I don’t know about you, but throughout a lifetime of inquiring to the Lord I’ve never been given such a specific and detailed answer.  Yet, this type of communication was commonplace for David and many others as recorded in the Old Testament.

God speaks this clearly to believers throughout the New Testament too. A good example is the back and forth conversation between the Lord and Ananias in Acts 9.  God’s instructions were very detailed: “Go over to Straight Street, to the house of Judas. When you get there, ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul. He is praying to me right now.  I have shown him a vision of a man named Ananias coming in and laying hands on him so he can see again.” Acts records Ananias’ response to these instructions and God’s reply to his questions too.

I believe God still speaks to us today. Scripture explains He is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb 18:8, Mal 3:6).  He speaks to us through general revelation, such as what we observe in nature and from history; and, He speaks through special revelation as recorded in Scripture.

Worship and prayer are both powerful ways I hear from God. Worship is the cornerstone of my spiritual life.  Many days I wake up in the morning with a song running through my head and heart.  I’ve come to wonder if this is the Holy Spirit helping to prepare me for the day ahead.  Prayer is also a huge factor of my faith life. I’ve found that prayer quiets and heals my soul, or as Ole Hallesby so powerfully writes, “prayer is the breath of the soul, the organ by which we receive Christ into our parched and withered hearts” (Prayer, 1936, p.14).

God speaks to my heart during personal devotion time and through the preaching of the Word too. These are aspects of his special revelation, which require me to faithfully attend to the habits of reading the Bible and attending church.  I’m constantly amazed how often these activities seem to overlap and confirm each other-for instance, when a passage I’ve studied during the week just happens to be a key component in pastor’s Sunday message.

Meditating along the ocean shore or hiking through a nature preserve become holy places where He will reveal something new about His faithfulness and strength to me. Soft as rain, these gentle whispers create a new thought that cause me to suddenly see situations in my life differently. In the “be still and know” solitary spaces, God is near and always leading me forward.

Finally, and probably most profoundly, I hear from God through the relationships we form in this life.  Within the context of family and friends I learn of His faithfulness, compassion, and enduring love.  As I wipe away my children’s tears, I know that God also wipes away mine. Not only can I understand His patterns and purposes deeply through these vital relationships, my desire for His presence deepens.  When earthly relationships bring pain and disappoint, I run to the Creator to be healed by His unconditional and steadfast love.

How do I hear from God?  Oh, I hear from him in so many beautiful and powerful ways. I may not be the recipient of full conversations as the saints of old; but His presence fills me, heals me, and guides me daily. He is imminent and He is faithful.  I just need to be quiet and listen.


Blogger BioDawn Stark and her husband Tim ministered to youth of all ages, from babies to young adults, all while enduring their own private infertility battle.  Throughout this process that spanned a 23-year period, Dawn learned to worship her way through life’s challenges and heartbreaks.  As with Hannah of old, God was faithful and eventually granted Tim and Dawn three biological children, including a set of twins, and two adopted children from Guatemala.  

It was during Dawn’s adoptions from Guatemala that her eyes were opened to the complicated and lasting effects of poverty. Stuck in the process for years, she dedicated the rest of her working years to be an advocate for children and families in need.  Serving in the non-profit arena since 2013, she has worked for the Both Ends Burning campaign as the Director of Faith-based Initiatives and One More Child + FBCH as the Orphan Care Coordinator.

Her advocacy journey led her to Operation Blessing in May 2019 where she now serves as the Regional Philanthropy Manager for the Southeast Region.  In this role, she works in a 9-state region to match the philanthropic goals and interest of partners with the needs of the most vulnerable in 39 countries, including the U.S.   She is passionate about the work Operation Blessing is doing to bring hope and help to suffering families through innovative programs and partnerships that maximize resources and save lives. 

Dawn graduated from Regent University with a degree in government/ international relations and is currently completing a master’s degree in international community development at Southeastern University. She is a blogger, aspiring author, public speaker and a beach lover.  She currently lives in Sarasota, Florida with her husband of 34 years, five children, and Siberian Husky puppy. 

Drainer or Refresher

Lunch took an interesting turn at Chickfila on Friday. For one reason, my Fridays normally don’t involve lunch out, so there’s that. And it was a late lunch, so add that.

But I ordered my lunch and took a seat. Within minutes, two of their employees, also friends of mine, joined me to chat. So not only was my tummy getting full but my soul was also. In our chat, one of them mentioned an opportunity they have coming up that even though it may seem like work actually felt like the opposite. Exact words, “I don’t leave there drained.” When I left the restaurant, I had gotten refreshed with more than Combo #1.

That interaction led me to ask this question that I’m throwing out to you: Am I a Drainer or a Refresher? In my interactions with others, do they leave drained or refreshed? No doubt there are days I know I’m drained, so it’s seems impossible to be a refresher. But is that excusable?

One of the most draining days of Jesus’ life is recorded in Matthew 14. On this day…

  • …he found out his cousin John the Baptist had been beheaded…
  • …while trying to find seclusion, he ended up healing many people and feeding five thousand with five loaves and two fishes…
  • …and ended the day walking on the Sea to rescue his disciples and calming the storm. 

My worst day will never match that one. What Jesus models for us is even when we’re drained we can be a refresher. Does that mean we always have to ignore our drained state? Absolutely not. We are not the Son of God. It does mean that it is within our relationship with him to be something to others what only he could be through us.

When I’m drained, I need Refreshers.  When I’m drained, may I allow others to refresh me so I avoid being a Drainer.

When others are drained, I need to be a Refresher.  When I come across a drained person, may I allow the Holy Spirit to make me a Refresher.

3 Values for Your Calling

In some circles, the term calling can make for quite a discussion. People get all wrapped up in what it means and implies or how they feel when asked any questions that include it. You could say it is a trigger word for many people for many reasons.

But not enough for us to avoid using it. For much of this year, again for various reasons by various people, the idea of our lives having a calling has sprinkled conversations in my circles. Regardless of whether it’s used to describe one’s purpose or to indicate how others view God’s unique design for someone else’s vocation, calling is considered by most to be something to be taken seriously.

So, much like choosing to marry or to procreate, how one views one’s calling determines its fulfillment. As a Christian, my values about my calling derive from my belief in the sovereignty of God. He’s in charge of all things. When that belief goes offline, life gets wacky. To keep it in check, here are three values that cannot be dismissed.

True callings are God-given.

Everything I have comes from him-that includes their purposes. My job, my friends, my talents, my time, my possessions, my money-all of it. When I allow him to reign over all areas of my life, I’m living from the value of his calling for me through them.

True callings are God-ended.

Since they come from him, then it only seems to reason that he determines when they are completed. I leave a job when he says. A friendship ends or doesn’t end when he says. My talents are to be used until he says stop. My money goes where he directs until he says, “That’s finished. Now send it here.” All my callings start and end by God. All other’s thoughts, including the enemy’s, take a backseat to his.

True callings are God-empowered.

Any calling from God in any area of life comes with the capacity to do it. When the first two values are in place, I resist the temptation to fulfill my calling in my own power. Without his empowerment, the calling has no chance of fulfilling all he intended. When tempted to doubt their calling can be accomplished, believers must yield to his power.

No matter where you are in your calling-just starting, sailing along, or wishing to be done-hear the words of Joshua:

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. -Joshua 1:9

What’s Really Sacred?

We don’t understand what it means for something to be “sacred.” We live in a human-centered world among people who see themselves as the highest authority. We are quick to say things like “That isn’t fair!” because we believe we deserve certain rights as humans. Yet we give little thought to the rights God deserves as God. Even in the Church we can act as though God’s actions should revolve around us. The stories in Scripture are meant to show us that there exists something of greater value than our existence and rights. There are things that belong to God. Sacred things. His ark of the covenant, His command to Moses, His offerings in the temple, His Holy Spirit, His Holy Communion, His sacred Church. In all the above situations, people rushed into something sacred and paid the price. We shouldn’t be surprised; we should be humbled. We have all done things more irreverent than those mentioned above. Let’s thank God for His mercy and tread more carefully into sacred matters.

This excerpt is from Day 1 of a @youversion devotional plan by Francis Chan entitled Letters to the Church. I agree we have lost the understanding of something being sacred according to what God calls sacred. In addition, we often make things sacred without affirming with God whether they should be.

I’m guilty of saying or agreeing “That’s not Fair” about something God didn’t label sacred. I’ve set up my own sacred pillar similar to what is mentioned several times in the Old Testament. And I’ve paid the price for rushing in to the sacred as well as exalting the unsacred.

So how does this play out for us? A pretty clear example is in our relationships. We can rush a very sacred relationship (parent/child, current/future spouse) and destroy it by dismissing God’s role in it to force our wants in it. We can also make a relationship sacred that has no place being elevated to that position, particularly if we make it more sacred than our relationship with our Creator and Savior.

Chan has made me think. Where might I have mislabeled something as sacred? What God-ordained sacred things have I selfishly lowered their value?

That Person

I have them. You have them.

I am one. You are one.

That person…

  • …you are constantly battling the thought that they can’t do anything right
  • …you are tempted to believe is unforgivable
  • …you wish they’d just move on
  • …you wonder if there’s such a thing as too much grace
  • …you’re convinced doesn’t have a clue

That person(s) that you’re thinking about right now is your that person.

As a recovering judger and teller, I’ve labeled many people as that person. The more I own and understand that I’m also that person the fewer people I label. We have to resist labeling in our minds and hearts, and we need to be aware when we’re spreading our labeling to others by talking about that person. Not easy work.

How do we do this work? I’m doing it by asking myself three questions:

  1. How am I praying for that person?
  2. How will I stay engaged with that person?
  3. When’s the last time that person…
  • …had an arm around their shoulder?
  • …heard, “I forgive you”?
  • …believed they weren’t alone?
  • …experienced grace from another human?
  • …felt safe with those who knew them well?

It’s hard relationship work. But that person needs it. And as someone else’s that person, I need it.

The Reason We Ask, Seek, and Knock

(Post from a youversion reading plan by Adam Stadtmiller)

God answers prayer, but asking prayer is not primarily about answers. Asking prayer, like all other forms of prayer, is about relationship. If you make asking prayer about answers, you’re moving into dangerous territory.

When prayer is primarily about answers, our relationship with God becomes results focused. When God says no or works outside of our time schedule, we desperately question why and are tempted to feel inadequate or unloved by God. Be assured that as you grow in the area of asking prayer, the Devil will seek to shift the focus of your prayers from relationship to results.

Christ was well aware of the relational purpose of asking prayer. In the seventh chapter of Matthew when Jesus dared His followers to ask for things – big things – like “elephants” in prayers. He immediately transferred the focus from the asking to the fatherly or paternal relationship that surrounds each request we make.

Jesus was saying that whenever you ask in prayer you open up the familial lines of communication and put yourself in a position to experience relationship with a loving and compassionate Father.

When God answers your prayers in dramatic fashion, you will grow in the knowledge of His power and care for you. When God works on His schedule instead of yours, you will come to know more about His sustaining power. And when God says no and your dreams die or perhaps you lose someone close to you, you will come to know the God of all comfort who weeps with you. If you want to know God as Father, begin to assault the throne of heaven in asking prayer.

What If, Men?

I’ve traveled to Jordan twice this year. Much could be said about traveling to that part of the world. One thing I noticed the first time and then even more the second time is this: Arab men know how to do community.

They enjoy talking to each other. They enjoy healthy disagreement. They share the good and the bad. They lean into one another. They plan time together. From my experience, they do it better than we Americans. So I’m doing what I can now to change that experience.

We have an opportunity. If the opportunity could be boiled down to one word, I believe that word is trust. Much like we have to grow our trust in God, we should pay attention to grow our trust in one another. It’s quite possible that the former is needed and necessary in order for the latter to happen. So how do we go about growing these trusts?

TRUST BY SHARING YOUR FEARS

Yesterday one of my friends did this with me during a breakfast conversation. He shared a fear he’s dealing with, and I’m the first male that knows. He seemed to feel better just because he had a brother to share his fear with. Scripture tells us to bear each other’s burdens (Galatians 6:2). Imagine how lighter the community of men would be if we shared our fears rather than bearing them all alone. What if we started by sharing our fears with God and asking him to give us the courage to share them with a brother?

TRUST BY BEING HONEST

We have the habit of not being real, not being completely honest and transparent. Guys, you are not going to be weak by being real. You are going to be stronger because you are not denying the truth. The truth can only set you free when you speak it and live in it. Earlier this year I watched a brother go through a trying season, life threatening, because he refused to be honest. Imagine how stronger the community of men would be if we embraced honesty. What if we started by being honest with God and humbling ourselves to be honest with a brother?

TRUST BY TAKING THE CHANCE

As I’m writing this, the news is reporting the murder/suicide of a deputy sheriff’s family in a nearby county. Familiar story-no one knows why, no one suspected it, no one saw it coming. We can grow our trust in numerous ways of taking chances. What if we took a personal chance by considering a mental health check up as much as a physical one? What if we took a chance by pointing out odd behavior to our brothers? What if we took a chance by asking how to pray for one another? What if we took a chance to follow through on a Holy Spirit nudge to reach out to a brother? Imagine the impact to the community of men if we took more chances. What if we started by asking God to give us a chance to take today?