Saturday, February 21, 2009

Saturday Selection

Hey, it's Saturday. And what your you doing? You're sitting here reading this blog!

It's my experience that people who read blogs do so because they are interested in a) a certain type of reading material or b) the writing of a particular author. Whatever your reason for reading Dwell & Cultivate, if you're new around here, Saturday is my day to recharge my writing batteries.

And to recommend another blog to you. Today's selection has taken off like a popularity rocket ship for one reason: it's a blog not so much about the author as about the reader. In fact, you the reader become a part of the writing by answering a simple question. BUT, you only get one minute!

Try out The One Minute Writer. Who knows? By next week, you may start your own blog!

p.s. Yes, it's my daughter's blog! I'm recommending it because it's such a creative idea. And I'm proud of her for creating it!

Friday, February 20, 2009

The Magic Words Are...

...please and THANK YOU!

It's funny how much it helps us when we develop an attitude of gratitude. The choice to notice and express our thankfulness stretches our hearts.

That choice can literally transform the attitude of those we take time to thank. This is a day of thanks at Stone Ridge, the church I pastor. Tonight we take time to play, laugh and tell stories as we say "Thank You" to our several hundred volunteers who freely give of themselves to serve others.

My wife Cathy coordinates this event and our staff and their immediate families do the work. The food is always great and the entertainment is often hilarious. Our goal is to personally say, "Thank you for serving!" to each of our volunteers. Some of them tell us that they have served in churches for years and no one ever took the time to thank them before.

So, if you volunteer at SRC, I hope I see you tonight! If you can't be there, thank you for serving. If you are there, I pray that you will leave with a full heart.

Because I know that mine will be overflowing!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Story Of Jim

If there is such a thing as being kicked in the motivational backside, Jim certainly discovered it. We have been talking this week about what motivates us to get in gear and do the right thing. Jim serves as a great example.

Jim grew up in a large family with 3 brothers and at least 2 sisters. His home life was complicated by the fact that his mom had given birth to a son before Jim was born. He knew that his dad loved this older son just like the rest of the kids, but that half-brother wasn't his pop's real son.

It always bugged Jim that his older brother seemed to be "special" and Jim constantly felt a pang of jealousy over the matter. After all, he would have been the oldest if dad had just rejected the guy. Those sort of things happened sometimes -- a father would refuse to accept a child who wasn't really his own.

As they grew to adulthood, Jim pretty much had the support of his younger siblings and he enjoyed their loyalty in this little family rebellion. The whole matter took a huge turn for the worse after dad died. Jim felt the responsibilities of being their dad's oldest biological son, but his older brother seemed to always have a special bond with their mother.

The problems erupted like a volcano when the oldest boy started traveling out of town as part of his work. His job seemed to be in demand and his popularity started spreading like a prairie blaze. Soon, he didn't have time to even come home and check up on mom. Jim decided to jump into the situation and seize an advantage. He gathered up mom and the siblings and traveled to the place where the oldest boy was working at the time.

Well, you wouldn't believe what happened! The family arrived to see the oldest brother and he wouldn't even leave work long enough to say "Hi." He just sent word to the family that his work was too important to walk away just now. Mom seemed to take all this in stride, but Jim was livid!

After they got back home, Jim was even more angry because he could see some of the impact this was having on their mom. She sometimes traveled away with friends to find the oldest boy and catch some moments with him. Jim just couldn't understand why mom would do that. The kids were all grown by now, but she was rejecting them to go spend time with that "low life" who seemed to care far more for his work than for her.

He had a glimmer of hope, though. His older brother's popularity was countered by a strong and growing resentment on the part of his competitors. More and more, Jim heard whispers that some of these opponents were seriously looking for a way to decommission the oldest boy for good.

The older boy's troubles reached a flash point and Jim knew that the powder keg was about to explode. He took the younger boys and they set out to find their neglectful sibling and encourage him to travel on up to the biggest town in those parts. Jim knew that someone was setting a trap there. They were prepared to arrest the brother, try him on trumped-up charges and execute him nice and legal-like.

When they found him in one of the towns not too far from home, Jim and the others veritably dared him to go up to the "big city." It looked like the older brother was wise to them and wouldn't go, but lo and behold, he showed up a few days later.

Jim heard about the arrest and almost felt a little bad when he found out about the trial. Almost. Even he was surprised, though, at how quickly the verdict was announced. And then the execution was carried out that day! Mom was devastated and Jim felt horribly sorry for her. But he was sure she would finally figure out was a mess the guy was and come back home to the rest of the family.

Home. That's where Jim headed. Finally, he could have a normal life.

Until he heard the first whispered rumor.

He chuckled inwardly. He just couldn't imagine how much blind loyalty his brother's friends showed. "Fools!" he thought.

Then another rumor. Then someone Jim knew and trusted said...they saw him.


Then, a few days later, the word was out all over the hill country where they lived. Over 500 of his brother's friends were meeting to try to figure what in the world was going on. And his brother showed up and met with them!

Chaos! Jim flew into a rage. Could he never escape the reputation of this man? Was self-destruction his only way out?

Then. Suddenly. Jim was alone, pondering what to do. And his Brother was there. Just the two of them.

I'm not sure what was said in that meeting, but Jim's entire motivation changed that day.

Two millennia later, Jim's words still cry across history...

From James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ. To all of God’s people who are scattered everywhere in the world: Greetings.
(James 1:1 NCV)

To my dear readers, some of whom I may never meet face to face...

The story of James (Jim), the son of Mary and Joseph, must be pieced together from a variety of Scriptures. These include Matthew 13:55, Luke 8:19-21, John 7:3-4, and 1 Corinthians 15:7. James very quickly went from being a skeptic to the recognized leader of the Jerusalem church (Acts 15) and is the author of the little book that bears his name. I have taken liberty with this little story to shade in between the lines where the Scripture is not clear. It is, though (I believe), a reasonable perception of the life of James. Before he was changed.

I, too, have at times been skeptical. I have often been resentful of Christ's intrusion. When I was young, I wanted to live life the way I wanted to live it.

But, at various unexpected moments, He touches me. Not physically, as He did with James, but with His unmistakable quiet voice as the lover of my soul.

And THAT is what motivates me!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Choices We Make... we can make the right choices.

Yesterday, I asked you what motivates you. I appreciate your responses (as always) and I want to talk more about this for the next day or two. Today, I want to focus on the motivation of someone who overnight became a worldwide hero...

"For 42 years, I made small, regular deposits of education, training and experience. And the experience balance was sufficient that, on January 15th, I could make a sudden, large withdrawal." Capt. Chesley "Sulley" Sullenberger, Pilot of US Airways Flight 1549

When I heard "Sulley" say this on television, I was riveted! I threw away years of my young life goofing off. I know what it is to have a surplus of time, energy or money and just throw it away. One of the attitudes that had to change in me was that a moment. Or a dollar. Or a day...doesn't count.

Because it does!

I have been taught this in so many ways. I remember, as a young man, hearing the answer a guy about 20 years my senior gave. He was offered a donut. He refused, and said, "A donut in here (his mouth) becomes a donut here (his mid-section)." It took me decades to put his wisdom into practice.

John Maxwell helped me understand that leadership is something one gains by making "small, regular deposits of training and experience." The leadership graveyard is full of talented former leaders who didn't pay the price.

It took a pastor named Tom Wolf to make me understand, "You can lead a growing church -- if you can stand the pain."

I know the temptations. Well. Far too many mornings I have rolled over in my warm bed. I still do sometimes. But it can become a habit that is nearly impossible to break after a while. Those chilly, dark mornings of feet pounding pavement are usually not fun -- until I get back home and experience the joy of doing the right thing.

Life can be long preparation for just a moment of response to sheer terror. Usually, though, it's small preparations for small acts.

But, over the years, those small acts comprise our lives.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

If You Are In A Rut...

...hop out!

You may have heard the story. It goes something like this... Two frogs were playing in a muddy road. Their gleeful hopping gradually took them deeper and deeper into a rut. One of the frogs tired of the game and decided he was ready to move along so he hopped out of the rut. The other frog looked at him wearily.

"Hop out!" cried the first frog. "If you don't get home, you'll miss supper." The little fellow in the mud was getting hungry, but he was also weary. He had begun to ponder just taking a nice, long nap here in the rut. "I can't. I'm too tired," the second frog moaned as he sat his little chin on the ground. "Besides, it's cool and comfy down here. I just don't have the energy to hop out of this deep rut."

The first frog croaked his pleas over and over again. The second frog lifted his chin once or twice and even made a half-hearted attempt to hop that high but, alas, he felt it was just too much for him. He couldn't do it.

Until both frogs heard a sound. A low rumble floated in the air to them and quickly grew louder. It escalated until the earth seemed to shake with it. They looked down the road a short distance and a large truck was racing toward them. One front wheel was in the very rut where the little frog was stuck! The frog up on top screamed and squeezed his eyes shut as the trucked thundered by!

Then, as it grew quiet once again, a tear started dripping down his cheek. He slipped up to the edge of the rut and peered over. No one was there! Had his friend been buried in the mud? As he shook from fear and sorrow, he heard a sound behind him.

On the side of the road sat his friend, croaking happily. "How did you get there?" "I took one big hop and landed here," the friend replied.

"But," said the first frog, "you said you couldn't get out. What changed?"


I tell that story because, a few years ago, I was that frog in the mud. I felt weary and unable to get out of my rut. My motivation came in the form of a seminar taught by author/speaker John Maxwell. The subject was leadership and no one else can hold me in such rapt attention for long stretches of time.

When I left for that Southern California conference with several co-workers, what I really wanted to do was put my chin down in the mud and sleep for a while. I seriously considered whether I might have a case of burn-out.

By the time I returned home, I was not only out of my rut, but I had purchased -- at my own expense -- a veritable library of resources I could use to continue my study. My motivation was strong enough to permanently change some of my time management. It started me on a learning quest that continues today, some ten years later.

My "big truck" was actually the discovery of something I wanted more than the safe confines of my rut. I wanted to grow as a leader. And I knew it wouldn't happen without diligent, elongated effort. I discovered that it's amazing how far you can hop -- if you have the proper motivation.

So, my friend...what motivates you?

p.s. My "Old Friend" -- the one I wrote about yesterday. He sent me an email that arrived as I was leaving for the office in the morning. Contact!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Old Friends

Paul Simon wrote...

Can you imagine us
Years from today,
Sharing a park bench quietly?
How terribly strange
To be seventy.
Old friends,
Memory brushes the same years
Silently sharing the same fears

Two thoughts squeeze my brain today. First, I am aware that I graduated from High School 40 years ago this spring. It has been 40 years since that wild, wacky year of my life that has left indelible memories.

Second, I just wrote a letter -- an email actually -- to an old friend. Not just an old friend. The best man at my wedding. The guy I played with, worked with, laughed with, joked with and enjoyed life with for a big part of my "kid years." The guy I lost touch with about 30 years ago.

We just went different ways.

Then he wasn't really connected to the various places I searched for people on the internet. Then he missed a huge "All 60s Classes Reunion" at our small High School. And that was 9 years ago.

But I found his sister recently on Facebook. We re-established contact and she sent me his email address. I wrote him.

I hope he answers.

Life runs a hundred miles an hour. On slow days. Try not to lose touch with Old Friends. Keep up with them while you can.

The third guy in our circle of friends was murdered when we were in our twenties.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

And Don't Come Out Until...

I heard it said that girls secretly want to marry their Daddy -- if he was a real Daddy and not some "low life." Boys, on the other hand, can't imagine being married to their mom...not in a million years!

Boys may love their mom and think she is the very best mom a guy could have, but the girl of his dreams is lots of things and "mom" isn't one of them. A guy fantasizes about being married to Rachel...she has a face like Rachel McAdams, a figure like Rachel Weisz, and cooks like Rachel Ray.

So, a boy finds that perfect girl and marries her. He doesn't even think too much after that about the whole "mom" thing until he discovers his bride isn't his mom in some special way that's important to him. And it's usually extreme. For instance, he didn't expect his young wife to cook like his mother, but she has trouble boiling water and can't even make toast in the toaster!

Then, he has some adjustments to make.

My adjustments weren't primarily with food. What Cathy didn't know how to cook, she learned. We have laughed about the number of times that she decided to try a new recipe out when we were entertaining guests. Usually it worked out. Usually.

My adjustments came in another form. I told you recently about my mom's mercy. Well, let's just say that I didn't marry my mom.

My first clue was very early in our marriage. As a kid, I often suffered with headaches. I have now been told they are a form of migraine. They were more frequent and debilitating than they are now...and...I happened to marry a girl who had endured one headache in her life until then (I have given her many more, but that's another story.).

Cathy just didn't understand my pain. I had grown up with this merciful mom who suffers frequently with migraines. Mom listened and consoled me. Mom doted over me, often letting me stay home from school because I was sick (I could have gone many of those times!). Mom checked on me and made me feel special. Cathy?

My second clue took place one day when I was working a crossword puzzle. The clue was "merciless." I knew the five-letter word began with "c" and ended with "y", but I couldn't figure it out. I finally consulted a dictionary...this was long before the internet. I looked up "merciless" and, there, next to the definition, was my wife's picture!

At least, that's how I remember it.

Cathy has a simple way of dealing with it when I am sick. She sends me to the bedroom, closes the door and says, "Don't come out until you're better!"

My health has vastly improved.

To the reader: I started joking about this in sermons many years ago. Cathy would come home from church and tell me about all the people who offered her sympathy. However, as the church grew and many people were attending who don't really know us well on a personal level, she asked me to explain that we have a great marriage. I tease her in public and she dishes it out often when we're among close friends and family.

Now you know.